FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
My comments will mainly refer to the use of DRM technologies in computer games. Anti-duplication measures that are taken by publishers, measures that limit themselves to existing on the physical media on which the purchased content is stored, are one thing. Macrovision & SafeDisc protection on DVDs, for example - these are not a problem because they do not infringe on the Fair Use and First-Sale rights while accomplishing their purposes of inhibiting unauthorized duplication. That's what publishers should be limited to: inhibiting unauthorized duplication of copyrighted media - NOT inhibiting normal USE of the media by an authorized owner. SecuROM specifically is controversial because of its behavior: - installs hidden programs on a user's PC's hard drive without consent - those programs are at a security level which invites malicious attacks on potential security breaches - those programs have documented histories of negatively affecting (read: rendering inoperable) legal hardware (CD/DVD burners) on legal PCs of authorized owners - those programs do NOT remove themselves completely and totally when the licensed media (the game) is uninstalled and removed from the hard drive In the second place, the notion of installation/activation limits is unconscionable. If a consumer purchases a piece of media (regardless what type, movie on DVD, album on CD, book on cassette, game on DVD/CD), it's within his Fair Use rights to consume that media in any way he sees fit, and at any time he sees fit. If that consumer wants to install/uninstall his game every single time he plays it, or upgrade his PC every month and reinstall the game every time, that's within his right to be able to do, without having to place a call to a publisher (which may or may not still be in business at the time) asking for permission to do so. It's akin to a consumer having to call up Lucasarts every time he wants to watch his Star Wars DVD. He bought the right to consume the media, he should be able to do so in peace. Furthermore, these measures that are taken that extend beyond the physical media are injuring the consumer-to-consumer secondhand market, which is the right of all consumers (of media and of non-media tangible products) under the First-Sale doctrine. If a consumer buys a DVD (or a CD or a game), the First-Sale doctrine says that ownership of the physical media & the content provided therein has passed to the consumer. Therefore if he decides he wants to sell the physical media (and the content provided therein) secondhand to another consumer, that's his right. These new DRM measures taken by game publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are infringing on that right by irrevocably linking the purchased copy with the original purchaser, with the right of transfer completely removed. There must be a balance struck between the anti-copy measures taken by the publishers and the Fair-Use and First-Sale rights of their customers. There wasn't a problem with Macrovision and SafeDisc, confined as they were to the media itself, but the introduction of these new (sometimes called draconian) measures that are external to the media is unacceptable and must be curtailed.