Saturday, February 14, 2009

DRM comments

Here is the comment I sent to the FTC for their upcoming workshop on DRM:

I share the opinion of several others that there are aspects of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) that are particularly disruptive for consumers such as myself. Specifically, making the bypassing of Digital Rights Management (DRM) illegal is restrictive towards the needs of certain users. I built my desktop computer with a high-end monitor, and surround-sound speakers. In the interest of playing blu-ray high-definition (HD) movies, I began considering the purchase of a blu-ray drive to install in my computer. However, upon further research, I realized that playing back blu-ray movies would not be so simple. Because of High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), a form of DRM on blu-ray discs, I would need to purchase a new video card that supports HDCP, a new monitor that supports HDCP, a new sound card that supports HDCP, a new receiver, in addition to software and "upgrading" to Windows Vista. Similarly, if I were to purchase a consumer blu-ray player (such as a PS3 or other device) I would need to purchase a new monitor and receiver to view/hear HD content. Needless to say, I was disheartened. Alternatively, if I downloaded blu-ray movies from the internet, there would be no such restrictions and I would be able to play HD content without

I fully support the entertainment industry by purchasing content legally. My personal feeling is that artists, writers, producers, etc. should be rightfully rewarded for their efforts. However, I do not like being forced to purchase hardware because of these restrictions. In effect, I am being punished for trying to play HD content the ONLY legal way. In addition to downloading content (a copyright violation) I could also use software to “rip” HD content to my computer for playback without needing a new video card / monitor / sound card / etc. However, under the DMCA, this manner of bypassing DRM is illegal.

As many have pointed out and will continue to point out, DRM is ineffective: it restricts users such as myself from enjoying the full freedoms of legally purchased content that are enjoyed by those who obtain such content illegally. As noted by security experts, DRM will always be imperfect: there will always be people who will be able to hack/crack/break the encryption and make the content freely available on the internet to download. DRM only creates shackles for legitimate users.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that this issue has been present for some time. DVD's which have CSS, a form of DRM, require a player that is capable of decrypting the content. However, such players, to my knowledge, were never legally available for users who run Linux operating systems. As such, a program, DeCSS was created in 1999 that bypasses this form of DRM and is illegal under the DMCA. The Motion Picture Association of America (spec. its former president, Jack Valenti) had promised to create legal DVD player software for Linux that would enable users to view DVD's with CSS encryption. However, to my knowledge, they have failed to follow through on this: thus, users who wish to play CSS-encrypted DVD's on a Linux computer can only use illegal tools to bypass the DRM

Industry CANNOT be trusted to follow through on their "promises" to facilitate use of legally purchased content for consumers and end-users. The only option for individuals, then, is to bypass DRM illegally, download content illegally (copyright violation), or forgo such content. The primary purpose of government is to protect the rights of individuals. Thus, the FTC should regulate the ability of industry to abuse DRM: creating additional exceptions to the DMCA for individuals to bypass DRM to enjoy content legally is a vital action to protect individual rights and freedoms.

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