FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM has two key flaws: It is both proven ineffective at curbing piracy, and is intrusive to the legitimate user, frequently interfering with use of the afflicted product for its intended purpose. It's always possible to defeat a DRM system, and this is for one very simple reason: In order to provide the desired service, the data has to be fed to the DRM-afflicted device by some means. Even if the data is encrypted, the device must know how to decrypt it. One may discover how to do this by reverse engineering. One who is about to illegally distribute copyrighted material already has no regard for this class of law, so legislation like the DMCA will serve as no deterrent. There are frequent cases where the central "big brother" server of a particular DRM scheme, Yahoo's music store, for example, is shut down, rendering all purchases from such sources, inert. DRM is also, by its very nature, incompatible with both unprotected systems as well as competing systems. A device must be able to understand the DRM scheme to be able to enforce its restrictions, and, of course, no DRM scheme is going to concede and provide an unprotected file to a DRM-free device--that would defeat the purpose. Lastly, the greater majority of DRM schemes in active use exhibit a large number of false positives. The SecuROM product activation system is often tripped by uncommon hardware & software configurations, locking the user out of his legally purchased, yet DRM-laden software. Copy protection on CDs and DVDs (which is even accidentally bypassed by a great number of copiers) achieves its goal by corrupting the error correction sections of these discs, causing them to fail much earlier in their life cycle than they ought to, and they often fail to work at all on inexpensive players, which aren't the most aggressive at compensating for errors. The companies currently using or developing DRM need to stop treating their consumers like the enemy. They need to understand that pushing around their customers and dictating the ways in which they can use their products isn't the solution to piracy, all it serves to accomplish is to alienate their consumer base--their bottom line.