FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
DRM technologies in their current incarnations are intrusive and in some cases destructive to the user experience, and the platform which the DRM technologies are deployed on. There are only a few implementations of DRM at this time I am aware of that actually allow the consumer to fully utilize a given product or work of art within the bounds of copyright law as it is currently written. When DRM technologies are deployed software applications, for example, they generally require the application to contact licensor's network to "authorize" use of a that application, even though in the context of purchasing a given piece of software, license for use is already explicitly granted in the end user license agreement of the product. Should we have to get "authorization" to use the product every time we use the application, or the DRM controls have problems, or if we have to remove the application and reinstall it, or remove the application and reinstall it to a new computer system? Then again when the "authorization" process fails, and the software company in charge of the authorization process all of a sudden says we are no longer able to use the application because it has been activated too many times, or because they think the user has installed an "unauthorized" license. Based on the aforementioned items, we have a dilemma. How much can we allow individuals and organization enforce IP rights, while disallowing an individual the right to use the product they purchased a license for. By default, an IP holder who asks for a second payment from an individual for usage of a piece of software who has already paid for a license in the first place is at best dishonest, and at worst extortion. When the Sony "rootkit" scandal hit the internet, people were wholly unaware that the audio CD that they had purchased, had surreptitiously installed a program designed to control the use of the CD, and prevent copying the disc. First, decision in copyright law by the Supreme Court of the United States provide for a fair use clause in the case of using audio, or video recordings. Specifically it allows for a single backup of said media in case of loss or damage. Second, the installation of a piece of software which, theoretically, allows for unlimted control of a computer, is in part a definition of malware. Malware is an application installed on a computer (either hidden or otherwise), that is designed to control, report on activities of, and/or damage the computer it is installed on. The Sony DRM fisaco facilitated the installation of malware on the computer, and in it's own way could be considered a form of malware. This caused an untold amount of damage to many peoples computer systems, and costs of repairs were likely in the millions. There are many good implementations of DRM as well. Steam (www.steampowered.com) is a great implementation of DRM. The process of the DRM, and it's intent are clearly stated in the terms of service, as well in everyday language directly on the advertisement for the services. This is a good example of DRM, one of the few in fact. There needs to be tighter controls on what IP holders can actually do to protect their rights. There has to be a limit to which a computer or media appliance can be modified or changed to accomidate said protections. And IP holders cannot be allowed to trump existing US copyright law, and court decisions to make an extra buck.