FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle #539814-00828

Submission Number:
Ron Watkins
Initiative Name:
FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
(||| marks paragraphs)||| Bruce Schneier, one of the leading security experts worldwide, said it best: trying to make bits not copyable is like trying to make water not wet.||| In the era of physical books and CDs, you could read a book or listen to music wherever you wanted, you could take them to a friend's house and read or listen to them there, and leave them behind if you wished. But you couldn't easily create copies of it and share those, you couldn't give your book to a friend and keep it yourself too.||| Unfortunately, like it or not, we can do that now. The world is changing. Manufacturers try to use DRM to make bits work like old media, but they don't stop there, instead going far further. It's quite normal, for instance, for modern DRM-laden computer games to lock themselves to a specific piece of hardware, you can only play the game, EVER, on three computers. After the third one, the game won't activate anymore, and you can't play it. And you generally can't resell your DRMed goods, even if you give up your only copy. Once you've bought it, you can no longer transfer it. This, all by itself, destroys the used market, which has been a major force for cultural dissemination pretty much since Mr. Gutenberg had his bright idea. In a all-DRM world, there will be no more used media.||| DRM, in other words, has been a profound invasion of consumer rights, it abrogates the First Sale Doctrine, and attempts to control HOW a customer can use a product.||| Further, DRM systems are inherently fragile, because the customer must get both the encrypted bits AND the key to decode it, or he/she can't use it. It's easy to see why piracy would be impossible to stop in this circumstance, if you can see it, you can copy it somehow. And once it's been copied that first time, all further copies are perfect and nearly free.||| The producers and distributors of the world are based on the idea of scarce media, of duplication and distribution having value. These functions are almost free on the Net. There's very little reason for the record companies to exist. Their business model, that of mass duplication and distribution of high-quality music, has evaporated. Anyone can do what they do now, even a used, $50 computer can make perfectly good, playable CDs or DVDs, and transferring a bitperfect copy of a CD to most places in the world can be done in under an hour on a residential net connection.||| I'm not sure they've realized that, and they're trying very hard to get you, the government, involved in their travails. We can be fined HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS for online copyright infringement, but if we'd shoplifted the same CD, actively depriving the owners of real goods, we face a few hundred dollar fine and maybe a little jail time. The penalties have been increased to the point of insanity, and yet people are still copying media like crazy.||| It's time for private industry to adapt to the new reality that distributors *have no further function* in a world with the Internet. They are trying to use the regulatory power of the government to preserve an obsolete business model. This will be enormously expensive, it will pit the government against its own citizens, it's not an area that you should be involved in, and it won't even work!||| So what's the solution? I don't know. I know that DRM is clearly bad, and that if the industry wants to continue to make money, they need to figure out a way to prosper in the 21st century, without involving the police. If you have to use the police to scare people into giving you money, your business model has failed. The industry needs to be focusing on new business models, not hijacking your good offices to try to avoid adapting to market realities.||| At the very least, get the First Sale Doctrine re-enshrined in all DRM products. And get online copyright infringement penalties back to something reasonable. In its current form, the law is a travesty.|||