Outside the United States
FTC Town Hall to Address Digital Rights Management Technologies - Event Takes Place Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in Seattle
I am not a US citizen but i know that anything of importance happening in the USA will have an impact in my country shortly after. So i am writing my concerns about DRM systems to you. I understand the need for hardware manufacturers and publishers to protect their content and make sure people using their products have the right to do it, unfortunately DRM have serious limitations that, in my opinion, harm consumers a lot. Normally, when consumers buy a product whether physical product or pure digital over the internet, consumers gain some rights over the product they buy : first they own the product, they have the right to use it the way the product was designed to be used but also in any other way the consumer wants to use the product (legal fair use), and consumers have the right to resell the product whenever they want, to whoever they want, at the price they want, etc... Current DRM systems do not allow consumers to do all this. So in order to be legal, they force consumers to accept the end-user-license-agreement (EULA). Unfortunately, these EULAs are so long and complex they can't fit on the box. Reading the EULA after having bought the product is very time consuming and most consumers feel so eager to use the product they have already bought that they just accept the EULA without reading it. This issue happens both for retail products (where consumers buy the product before being even prompted with the EULA) and online shops (where consumers buy the product at the same time or almost the same time as they are prompted with the EULA) So when consumers finally want to use the product in the way consumers think they have the right to use it : the DRM system applies the restrictions provided by the EULA and blocks the consumer. Therefore the consumer considers the DRM the be at fault. An other issue comes when the consumers still keep their rights but DRM system is incomplete and isn't able to provide the consumer some of his rights. In order to be able to access his rights, the consumer needs to contact the product manufacturer or publisher in order to unlock the DRM system : the simple fact of having to contact anyone in order to benefit from a personnal right is not normal and can be intimidating for consumers. There is a very strong probability that the consumer will be so intimidated by the process that the consumer will resign from benefiting of his rights. Last is about the future of DRM systems and consumers rights. Consumer rights over intellectual property used to be set by national and international intellectual property laws and agreements. These were good because they allow consumers to buy products protected by Intellectual Property laws without having to sign annoying paperwork : an equivalent contract is automatically established by law. They also ensure that consumers get fair rights against publishers who have a monopoly over their work and who might be tempted to reduce consumers rights. The issue with DRM is that they allow the blind and automatic enforcement of unfair EULAs to circumvent consumers rights. I am afraid that, in the future, publishers and hardware manufacturers will use DRM systems to force consumers to accept even more restrictive and unfair EULAs and resign from their legal rights. I hope you will be able to find a way to make sure next generation DRM systems will not harm consumers for example by making mandatory for DRM systems to manage all the legal rights of consumers, or if DRM systems are not able to provide consumers with their rights, to make sure the products are not sold in the same way than traditional products, and be clearly labelled on the product that the DRM system does not allow the consumer to use all the rights provided by law. I wish you good luck ! Thank you.