FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM is a necessary evil, but if made too invasive is more damaging than no DRM at all. The idea that good fences make good neighbors is a solid one. Define in a clear way, what is acceptable usage of a resource, by providing a barrier to unacceptable usage. Providing a visible barrier to entry, like an access-code or a CD check, prevents casual piracy just like a fence prevents casual trespass. People will walk around the fence rather than cut through the yard if its easier to do so. People will simply regard it as easier not to pirate the software. Escalating beyond this level of protection is counter productive. Just like a fence will not stop anyone who plans to enter the yard from going there, copy protection will not stop anyone intent on stealing software from doing so. The difference is that no matter how powerful a DRM system is, the creators must allow access to authorized users. As long as the intended recipients can get in so can the unintended. As we have seen in practice many times now, someone will crack the DRM and a version of the product with no DRM will be available for those who would take the time to find it. Stronger copy protection fails to provide stronger results because the people intent on stealing the software need not defeat the DRM themselves. Since the people who break the DRM do so for everyone, the hardest most folks have to work to steal software is always the same, they simply need to search for an already broken copy. When the DRM gets more invasive, legitimate consumers receive a greater barrier to entry without a corresponding increase in difficulty for the illegitimate users. Eventually we reach a tipping point where it becomes easier for people to steal the software than to buy it. The following is a personal example of the issue: I recently reinstalled an old game of mine only to find that it will not run on my new system, because I have Nero Express installed. Uninstalling Nero was not enough for the DRM in the game to allow me to play. Fortunately this game was several years old and a patch had long since been released to fix the issue, but I still needed to research the problem, uninstall the game, reinstall the game, find the correct patch, and Install the patch before I could play. In the same time with far less effort I could have found a DRM free version of the software somewhere on the internet. To me that seems dangerous. Two things should be noted, One: Nero Express is a pack in with many DVD-RW drives. It, or software like it, is necessary for users of XP write information to a DVD disc as this function is not available in the XP OS itself) Two: Even if the DRM had been willing to let me play the game after removing Nero, this would have been an unacceptable solution to my mind. Not only is Nero essential to my work, but the idea that a publisher can place limits on another company's legitimate software is contrary to any concept of free market.