FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM is a largely fruitless endeavor which only serves to punish legitimate customers rather than pirates. It inconveniences users by imposing arbitrary limits upon the products they own, such as the number of times a game can be installed or by requiring users to activate a game online before it can even be played. These requirements would be tolerable if DRM was actually effective at stopping piracy. However, this is not the case. Spore, a popular PC game with DRM, was "cracked" by hackers and distributed online weeks before retail release. Now, according to numerous torrent websites, Spore is actually the most pirated game of all time. Most games with DRM are cracked on the day of the game's release or shortly thereafter. In spite of this fact, legitimate customers must continue to endure the limitations of DRM while pirates get to enjoy content without any such limitations. DRM proponents will often claim that DRM is effective at stopping "casual piracy," the sharing of physical media amongst friends and associates. However, this method of copyright infringement is largely antiquated. With the mainstream penetration of torrents and broadband connections, anyone can download a pirated, DRM-free version of a game, movie or music album with relative ease. Doing so is often faster and easier than getting physical copies from a friend. If someone is so technically inept that they can't download these things, then DRM is completely excessive and unnecessary. A rudimentary (and far less limiting) CD-check would be just as effective at stopping them from copying and sharing games, for example. There is also the argument that DRM stifles the rampant sales of pirated media in countries like China and Vietnam. As with "casual piracy," this myth holds no water. All someone has to do is obtain pirated content off the internet, burn copies onto physical media and then sell them. This content will be cracked and free of DRM and no different than the pirated media sold in the past. In summary, the use of DRM in games and other mediums cannot be justified when it clearly isn't effective at stopping piracy. There is no good reason whatsoever to limit customers' Fair Use rights when these limitations obviously have no effect on pirates. Copyright owners have the right to protect their properties but this right should never infringe on the rights of paying customers.