FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
If content providers choose to use DRM, consumers should know well in advance that they are purchasing content that has been crippled in some way. Furthermore this notice should not be allowed to state or imply that the _protection_ is for the benefit of the consumer. DRM is protection AGAINST the consumer FOR the benefit of the content provider. At a minimum, the notice should explain if the DRM in the content will make permanent modifications to a computer or device, whether these changes have been thoroughly tested to ensure they do not introduce security concerns, whether the content will be usable without a centralized verification service, and if a verification service is required how long the content provider guarantees the user access to the content via the verification service. If the provider does not guarantee that the content is accessible for a specified period of time, this should be made clear. Lastly, because the surrender of consumer rights is involved in the acceptance of such measures, a minimum age of accountability should be established, and the consumer should be required to read these notices, and answer several questions correctly before being allowed to purchase the content. This would create a considerable hindrance to the smooth operation of purchasing the content, however it is necessary to ensure the the consumer is not _tricked_ into making a bad purchase, and it is really no more disruptive than most DRM scemes are to the actual use of the content. If DRM is to be regulated, it should be treated like wiretapping or search and seizure. In a virtual sense, some DRM approaches those things in terms of invasion of privacy. The default assumption of DRM is that every consumer intends to infringe copyright. Because of this, content providers have taken liberties with consumers' computers and other hardware that would be considered unquestionably illegal, unethical, and immoral if it took place in a physical sense. Two examples I can offer are the Sony Rootkit debacle, and Apple Computer's practice of attempting to render unofficially modified iPhones inoperable for no reason other than the unofficial modification (meaning that the change that Apple computer made in its updates that disabled _unlocked_ iPhones was solely for the purpose of punishing those users, and not an incidental incompatibility with the unofficial modifications.). These examples are not anecdotal, they are indicative of a considerable amount of DRM. The government should stop spending resources and creating laws to protect large corporate concerns that have purchased copyrights from content creators. Those entities are perfectly capable of protecting themselves as is evidenced by some tens of thousands of lawsuits funded by them. The government should concern itself with protecting the consumers, who are not generally so well equipped to protect themselves against the vast resources of the corporate concerns that represent the entertainment industry.