FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
The are many reasons why DRM is bad, but I will limit my examples to a few. Consumers don't buy products, even electronic ones, with the desire to have their use of the product restricted in any way. When you buy a sandwich, you do not have to agree to an EULA that promises not to copy the sandwich recipe or share your sandwich with others, or make your own sandwich. When you buy a car, you do not have to check in with a license server every day to validate that you are the legitimate owner of the car. But because of the current business model of the creators and distributors of electronic content, consumers are being forced to accept more and more restrictive measures placed on their purchases in the interest of protecting against piracy. Once the argument that piracy is the root of all under performing profits has been won in the government circle, businesses will use this excuse as a justification for the inclusion of ever more restrictive measures on content and electronic devices. But what only a few businesses are beginning to realize is that consumers only take abuse for so long before they abandon a failing model and move to an alternative. But not all consumers are informed enough to realize they are being abused. So while it could be argued that letting market forces decide whether DRM is bad for consumers, this does not protect those who fall victim to the effects of DRM in the first place. When content requires a DRM infrastructure in place to function, and if the creators of that DRM no longer support that infrastructure, the consumer is left holding content or a device that no longer functions. They have no obvious legal recourse. No means of getting their money back. They are never sufficiently warned that the DRM that is necessary for the supposed viability of the content creator can be cancelled, without warning. Nor is this abandonment an expectation of the consumer. The owner of any product expects that their ownership and rights to continue using said product do not expire prematurely. While I sympathize with content creators in that modern technology has made it possible to copy everything as a byproduct of the inherent abilities of the technology, this doesn't give creators the right to fool consumers into thinking that when they buy a product, in reality they are now only leasing it or renting it - for a large sum of money. If the terms of our relationship with creators must change to preserve their profitability (an argument I don't accept at face value), then creators need to be honest with us regarding the actual rights we have regarding the product. Users should not be legally bound to cryptic EULAs that cannot be challenged or analyzed before purchasing the product. It is the role of government to protect the consumer, but it seems that once government sides with the creator of content, the consumer's rights become secondary. DRM does not prevent piracy. But it sure does make criminals out of ordinary consumers and punish those who would use what they purchase the way they expect to. For DRM to be allowed to exist, it should be mandatory for content creators to prove that DRM actually works, and for the most part it does not. DRM should preserve the rights of consumers and it does not. DRM should not interfere with the normal expectations of consumers to use their devices and content in a reasonable manner and it does in fact interfere. So why should it be allowed?