FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM hurts consumers, innovation, and artists, and electronics manufacturers. The greatest and most obvious problem with DRM is that it prevents consumers from using the media they purchase in ways that the publisher disapproves of or failed to consider, even if those uses are perfectly legal. The publisher must give the consumer special permission to do simple things such as copying the media to a new computer when the old one is obsolete. If that publisher goes out of business, the consumer usually loses the ability to use that media. This has happened with several companies already. Current law makes it illegal for the consumer to even try to circumvent the DRM, even if that's the only way for them to access the media they purchased. The harm to electronics manufacturers comes from the pressure on those manufacturers to include limitations in their music players, movies players, and other equipment. To be DRM compatible, the hardware must have extra features to prevent the consumer from using their media in certain ways. This is expensive and time consuming, and it's not something that any consumer would ask for. It reduces the value of the hardware while making it more expensive to develop. It takes time and money away from developing desirable features that result in truly competitive products. DRM hurts publishers and artists because it reduces the value of their product. If consumers can't access the media in the manner of their choosing, it is of little value to them. This can drive down prices and reduces adoption of what should be an extremely cost-effective method of delivery. It's far more profitable to sell a download than to sell any sort of physical media. Additionally, DRM-encumbered media simply cannot compete with illegal internet downloads. If I own an inexpensive media player, chances are good that it will only play unencumbered formats. I would be unable to play legally-purchased media with DRM, but I could play pirated media downloaded for free from the Internet. Finally, despite claims to the contrary, DRM does not prevent piracy. There are always ways for sufficiently motivated and creative people to make copies of protected media. If consumers can consume the media, pirates will be able to copy it. This is never going to change. Because of this, DRM does not hurt pirates or media theives. DRM hurts only the honest customers who pay for their music, movies, or software, instead of stealing it.