FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM provides absolutely no benefit to consumers, tramples over consumer rights and fair use, is sometimes outright harmful to consumers and, by many accounts, actually encourages the piracy of content that it supposedly is designed to prevent. The worst elements of DRM include (1) setting arbitrary limits on the usability of a product, such as software activation limits, (2) requiring activation on a central server, especially when this is required for every use, and (3) installing malicious monitoring software, which cannot be uninstalled by any ordinary people. We don’t allow automakers to make cars arbitrarily stop working at 100,000 miles and there is simply no reason for software, video or other entertainment or productivity content to have similar limits. We would never accept it if we had to ask permission every time we wanted to start our cars and, again, there is simply no reason to allow content owners to make us check in through software or hardware every time we want to use what we have purchased. We would be clogging the court system with lawsuits if any other industries hired spies to look through our belongings and monitor our use of their products. Content providers must not be allowed to install unwanted software that rifles through the contents of the hard drive and operating system looking for things it doesn’t like, disabling hardware and software, opening gaping holes in computer security, and reporting back to these businesses. By way of example, please refer to the widely reported Sony Rootkit lawsuit and the vulnerabilities it opened up on even secure government computers. When these companies are not regulated in their use of DRM, they run amok and pose serious threats not only to consumers but to national security. A copyright holder's rights to control the ownership of a copy end once that copy is sold. These forms of DRM violate this by enforcing control if the copy is sold to another owner. They overstep their own rights to trample on the rights of consumers in violation of established law. I was unaware until after purchasing a Blu-Ray player that this expensive piece of equipment can be rendered useless at the whim of the industry in the name of protecting content. The industry came up with a standard called AACS which essentially allows them to change the locks on new releases if somebody figures out how to digitally pick the old locks. That means that consumers like myself may be able to play Blu-Ray discs today and find out tomorrow that nothing else I buy will play on my player because they changed those digital locks. Simply put, they have no right to sell equipment that is supposed to work a certain way, then effectively flip a switch and tell the consumer to buy new equipment to fix the problem when it no longer works. If you ask the businesses, they are going to argue that DRM is necessary to reduce or prevent piracy. Real pirates will always circumvent whatever defenses are created. What DRM actually accomplishes is generating frustration for consumers. Please refer to the widely reported story of a PC game named “Spore”, which became the most pirated game in history, due primarily because of the DRM limitations imposed, as a form of consumer revolt. In recap, I am entirely opposed to DRM and I urge you to ban the use of DRM across the board. It is harmful to consumers and does not even effectively serve its alleged purpose. It is simply an unacceptable and abusive violation of consumer rights and infringement on fair use. To the extent that you do not ban DRM outright, I urge you to provide strong oversight, strict regulation, and to require clear disclosure of DRM limitations and risks on all packaging, marketing materials and sales catalog entries of affected products. Thank you for accepting my comments on this matter.