FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
As both a content creator (video and photography) and an avid consumer of movies, music, and video game and production software, I have been forced by necessity to become familiar with the workings of DRM technology. In almost all of it's forms I have found it to be a greater nuisance and in some extreme cases, to be a malicious intrusion on the consumer. Restrictions placed on audio and video prevent someone who legally purchased a copy (because they are, in fact, purchasing a copy of the file, not a license of that file) from enjoying that file even in normally accepted places such as on their TV, in their car, or on a personal media player. The end result is a market of miniature monopolies fragmented only by who sold both the content and the device capable of enjoying it. It's as if you had to buy a VHS player from Paramount in order to watch any of their movies, and another for anything from Fox, or WB. The DRM packaged as part of software is even more insidious and intrusive. At it's most benign it is a useless irritant, requesting ridiculously long series of numbers and letters before the software can be used, at it's worst it is the same sort of software exploiting weaknesses in the operating system of the computer that virus and spyware writers target and use to cause billions of dollars of loss globally by damaging the software of the machine it's installed on. It is unwanted and unrequested and can cause errors in the normal operation of a person's computer as well as increase the risk of damage to their data or privacy. It also removes any power the consumer has and places it all in the hands of the vendors, as example, in the case of the computer game Spore. It installed with it SecuROM, a small piece of software known to cause incompatibilities with the CD/DVD drive of many machines or even crash the computer it's installed on, rendering it useless. As a further offense, if one wished to install the game more than 3 times, something likely in the event you needed to replace your computer, or upgraded over time, then you would have to contact EA and request for permission to continue using the game that you have already paid for. A request that could very well be denied and prevent the customer from use of the product they purchased. All of these draconian measures have been proven futile in the face of even half dedicated pirates. The more intelligent ones are able to write software to automate it's removal or perform it themselves and release the 'clean' versions or the tools to the public at large over anonymous networks. Often it is used by even legitimate customers in preference to the restrictive measures on the copies they purchased since it allows them to use what they purchased in accordance to the laws of Fair Use. Quite simply, DRM in it's current form acts only as a punishment to the legitimate consumer, rather than any sort of serious deterrent to piracy. In fact, in many instances it prevents the legal applications outlined under Fair Use and in some cases behaves in a way that would be considered illegal by any other party. Becoming just as serious a threat to the content providers in the long run as piracy is in the near future.