FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
Dear FTC, I am a 20 year old student and unofficially a 'computer guru'. I opened my first computer case at 4, and by eight I had three in my room-most of them from garage sales-that I would take apart and put back together. I could, at that age, run DOS and windows 3.1 from a command line. During this time I was an avid gamer. When my best friend would get a game with old versions of safedisc or securom, I wouldn't even know they were there when I successfully copied and played the games with him. (I was 12 at the time). Hindsight is perfect, though, when I can say that some games for some reason always crashed my computer, even from a non-copied disk. With the operating system I was using (windows 2000), this could only mean a faulty device driver-as the games had no other way to get that deep into my computer's insides. My point is that CD-based copy protection didn't stop a twelve year old, and I wasn't a malicious hacker, just a kid that downloaded a piece of shareware (cloneCD) and used it. Fast forward to modern times. DRM is everywhere. Bioshock launches with securom like spore uses. Another friend at a LAN party tells me about it. I google "bioshock 3 activations" and find that it is true, and then, I head to a particular site dedicated to cracking DRM off of games, yet with a sense of honor-they don't generate CD-keys, which are a different copy protection. Within five minutes I have this friend, who had installed this game on his dad's laptop, his desktop, and his mother's laptop (they travel quite frequently), playing the game with the DRM off. If I had been helping him pirate the software, that's how fast it would have been. My most recent experience with DRM hindering me was in a slightly older, but still popular game by the title of "Sid Meier's Civilization IV". The DRM scheme in this game is different than most you'll hear about, it's called safedisc. Safedisc works by covertly installing a device driver, much like securom,. If it detects any programs or any remnents of the programs used to copy disks with copy protection, the game doesn't work, with no obvious error. (I found this out by going to control panel/administrator tools/event viewer, which will show ANY error. My system was actually stopping the safedisc copy protection driver from loading because the version the game insisted on was dangerous, however, a normal user would never know) I had bought the game to play with friends for a sort of 'game night' they do. I missed out on the game night because the only thing I could do to get the game to work was to crack the copy protection off. However, cracked copies in general don't play multiplayer with non-cracked copies. My point is that these myriad DRM schemes all are amazingly simple to crack. I'd like to ask that in your panel, you take a modern game that requires a CD or DVD inside your disk drive, and pull the CD/DVD out. Try to run the game to demonstrate that the copy protection does not allow it to work without the CD. Now head to a place like gamecopyworld.com and find your game title. It should be simple enough, this site even has updates for the games listed, so if you need to update the game, do so now. Grab the crack for the latest version, copy it over the version the game has, and try to run the game again. In five minutes, you've just had as much trouble removing this DRM as a pirate does. The problems this causes for pirates are ZERO. I'm certain, however, you'll hear about the problems this causes for consumers like me. I buy all my games and software now, and when they have nasty DRM on the games and software, i abstain from buying them, or pirating them. As a (pre)teen with no money, I had no options. Thank you for listening. Chris - P.S., please make these comment forms WYSIWYG so they preserve comment formatting.