FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
I bought a CD with Copy Control protection. The argument by record companies is that any copy you have needs to be licensed. I (any many others) disagree. More to the point, the software often doesn't work. The aforementioned CD causes a PC to install a junk audio player that makes the music sound awful and be unable recognize the audio tracks on the CD. Ironically, on older model CD drives, the Copy Control protection fails utterly and the computer recognizes it as a regular audio CD. This method of DRM does not harm those with older PCs, only those with newer ones, and of course would not stop a pirate. In a similar vein to this, I've avoided online music stores for the sole purpose of being told that I'm restricted from using purchased music where I like it and instead opt to buy discs. I would like to take this space here to laugh at online music stores that have opted to close their licensing system down, leaving customers who bought music from them with silent files, or other such DRM schemes that require licensing systems to be online at all times for customers to access content. It is not hard to find reasons why this DRM model is bad. Another example, the PC version of the game Bioshock installs software without the user's consent and is quite difficult to remove as it does not come with an uninstaller and is not removed by the game's own uninstaller. I refused to buy the game knowing about the software limitations (install limits before you have to call up, activating the game, etc.) after experiencing the uninstall pains of the demo trying to remove Securom. I was also disgusted that, again, I was not informed of software installing without my knowledge. After experiencing DRM from various mediums, it would appear in general that DRM projects from individual companies are both badly designed and badly written and are sometimes hidden from the customer in an effort to be more effective. This includes the rootkit scandal from Sony, Securom in general, and many other DRM schemes that often prove to be ineffective. This has come to a head in the release of the game Spore, which was flooded with negative comments solely based on the DRM on Amazon.com to the point that it has over 3000 comments and as of this writing stands at 2 stars. In the context of software DRM, if a piece of software that controls the user's experience has to be hidden from them to be effective, whether to simply not make itself known or to keep its operation mechanics a secret, does it not stand to reason that if it was not hidden, it would deter buyers, thus proving itself a wasted effort? This was often the case in older DRM schemes such as Copy Control and I believe older versions of Securom. They have given rise to more visible DRM schemes in software and thus, more resistance to it. This point is also evidenced by the fact that DRM schemes have gone through a vast amount of revisions in the years since its introduction to the consumer market and how many companies, such as EA, have given in to customer demands and changed the scheme in some fashion after release. Finding a happy agreeable point between consumers and the industry has thus far proven arguably futile and would be better served by offering content that can only be experienced by legal copies rather than picking at the consumer market for scraps of sales in aging markets and sales models. In an age with so much available at the fingertips of consumers, it would be better served to feature content to keep those fingertips busy in what they purchased rather than trying to access their purchase. I believe DRM to be the resistance to a changing marketplace of digital content, to keep things as they are rather than to advance the medium.