FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
I would like to echo the following observations submitted to you by Eric Raymond, the well-known computer programmer and advocate of Open Source Software: [quote] The worst effect of DRM is that it generates pressure to cripple general-purpose computers in an attempt to foil emulation attacks. As a society, we can live with silly restrictions on device-shifting the latest blockbuster movie, but we cannot tolerate (for example) attempts to prevent PCs from running software not certified in advance by a consortium of Big Media companies. Yet that - and even more draconian restrictions - is where the logic of DRM inexorably leads. Such measures have already been advocated under the misleading banner of so-called trusted computing, and half-attempts at them routinely injure today's computer users. I would not ask the FCC to ban DRM, even if that were within its remit. Markets will teach the media companies that DRM is folly. What the federal government can and should do is decline to prop up the DRM fraud with laws or mandates. Specifically, if the so-called broadcast flag or any other similar measure is again proposed, the FCC should reject it. To the extent that FCC regulatory or administrative action can mitigate the damage and chilling effects caused by the DMCA’s so-called anti-circumvention provisions, that should be attempted. Most generally, the FCC should make policy with the understanding that when media companies claim that DRM is useful and effective, they are not only misleading the FCC but deluding themselves. [end quote] As a computer programmer myself, I would add only the following to Mr. Raymond's cogent analysis: the freedom that I and all other US citizens have to configure our computers how we like, and decide for ourselves what software shall run on them, is, in today's information age, an integral part of the liberty guaranteed to us by the US Constitution. The FCC has a duty to ensure that these freedoms are protected, and protection of our liberty as citizens must take precedence over attempts by any business to co-opt the government into unfairly favoring its business model.