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Federal Trade Commission To Scrutinize DRM 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the uncle-sam-is-tired-of-installing-securom dept.
Ars Technica reports that the FTC is getting ready to take a hard look at gaming DRM, setting up a town hall meeting to be held on March 25th. They're currently recruiting panelists, and they say the meeting will, in part, "address the need to improve disclosures to consumers about DRM limitations." The controversy over DRM came to a head in 2008 with the release of Spore and the multiple subsequent class-action lawsuits focusing on the SecuROM software that came with the game. Ars Technica says the town hall meeting will also look at "legal issues surrounding DRM" and "the potential need for government involvement to protect consumers."
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Federal Trade Commission To Scrutinize DRM

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  • Woot! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Notabadguy (961343) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:21AM (#26356491)
    These kind of stories swing both ways, and we've had literally dozens of "Finally the pendulum swings the other way moments" that have amounted to nothing more than blips across the radar... But I can't help but optimistically wonder if this is the start of a trend fighting back against corporate abuse of us, the customer? For several years now, I (and probably you) have been inured to new stories about corporation X doing new thing Y to screw customer z, and the news story hasn't even batted an eyelash because we're not surprised. Now the RIAA is backpedaling, and DRM is getting an appropriate scrutinizing. =) Its a good start to 2009!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jurily (900488)

      2009: The Year Of Consumer Protection!

      • Re:Woot! (Score:4, Funny)

        by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:36AM (#26356611) Homepage Journal

        More like 2009: The Year of DRM on the Desktop, Laptop, Palmtop, Media Player, DVR, Television, The Automobile, Appliances, Your Brain, etc.

        This won't amount to anything. The MAFIAA wouldn't have it any other way.

        • Re:Woot! (Score:4, Informative)

          by AndrewNeo (979708) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:38AM (#26357323) Homepage
          What does the MAFIAA have to do with gaming DRM?
          • What does the MAFIAA have to do with gaming DRM?

            • RIAA members license music for use in DDR, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band.
            • RIAA members license music for use in sport simulations.
            • MPAA members license story treatments, settings, and characters for use in games based on film or TV franchises.
            • Sony makes video game consoles and is also a member of the RIAA and MPAA.
          • Re:Woot! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by causality (777677) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:57AM (#26358361)

            What does the MAFIAA have to do with gaming DRM?

            Directly? Not very much. Indirectly? They're trying to pave the way for more DRM in general.

            I think the problem is that we draw too many distinctions between this form of DRM and that form of DRM. The basic idea is that you either accept and agree with the philosophy of control underlying DRM or you see it as a threat to the freedom and assumption of good faith that most customers in most industries currently enjoy. If it's okay for media conglomerates to exert this kind of after-the-sale control of the market for music, it's also okay for software companies to exert this kind of after-the-sale control of the market for video games. It would be hypocritical to embrace one and resist the other.

            The way I see it, this is not about DRM or SecuROM or gaming or the RIAA or the MPAA. This is about the acceptance or the rejection of an idea. Any successful DRM scheme in any industry is an argument for the acceptability of DRM in general. Taken to its conclusion, the acceptability of DRM and the legitimization of this kind of micromanaged control would eventually have DRM-like systems showing up in many industries, even those that do not depend on copyright law. What has the MAFIAA to do with gaming? You can bet that the gaming companies are looking at the lessons learned from systems like iTunes, such as why it was successful, and considering these things for their own DRM.

            The part that bothers me is that you see this same pattern with most other systems of control. Remember the earlier PCs and the "Don't Copy That Floppy" campaigns and the severe antipiracy measures? They were not successful enough to become a widespread, enduring practice but the desire for control didn't just go away. The government is not the only large entity that is able to manipulate people and convince them that less freedom is somehow a good thing. So maybe people back then weren't prepared to accept it and here it comes rearing its ugly head once again. The pattern that bothers me is that this will keep coming up again and again, decade after decade, until it finally takes root, because the people pushing it know that once it is viewed as "just the way things are done" then it will be here to stay. Then the only "debate" will be about which forms of it are to be used and whether the FTC or anyone else will regulate it. If it ever becomes so legitimized, that would represent a significant victory for those who place short-term profits ahead of long-term freedoms.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Martin Blank (154261)

              Any successful DRM scheme in any industry is an argument for the acceptability of DRM in general.

              This is not necessarily true. While DRM for you may be completely unacceptable, there are those of us who do not necessarily mind relatively unintrusive DRM. Steam has been repeatedly mentioned in recent Slashdot conversations about this, with numerous users (myself included) happy with what it provides. A recent story did raise the point that SecuROM was in the Steam distribution for one or more games, but t

              • Re:Woot! (Score:5, Insightful)

                by causality (777677) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @02:38PM (#26360765)

                Again, you may find all forms of DRM to be abhorrent, but the more moderate forms are acceptable to many.

                That's because, as I explained, I find it to be abhorrent in principle. It's the practical implementation that the many find so acceptable. I won't mince words here; compromising principles not even for short-term gain, but worse, for no gain at all, on the grounds of "well it isn't really so bad (yet)", are the actions of weak-minded people who deserve what this inevitably leads to. Do it once and you prove that you and your beliefs and interests are compromisable. Prove that these are compromisable and you invite more of the same. Whether you are talking about nations or corporations, It is always a tiny, gradual, bit-by-bit encroachment and any particular "bit" never seems so bad at the time. Waiting until this happens and becomes entrenched is probably the worst time to resist it. With all of the examples provided by history, I can't believe anyone still doubts the inevitability of this process. Yet every time this comes up you always have the apologists who excuse the encroachment; their failure is that they are only looking at the immediate short-term and are not taking the idea to its full expression or at least asking "what precedent does this establish?".

                DRM was not the result of overwhelming customer demand. DRM amounts to the corporations telling their customers how the market will be. This is backwards. It is the customers who should be telling the corporations how the market will be, with bankruptcy as the corporations' only option. I'll make my priorities clear to you: I would rather see every last member of the RIAA and MPAA and every last video game company go completely out of business than see the widespread acceptance of unnecessary limitations on freedom. Freedom is easily that precious.

                To concern yourself with whether this form of DRM is a little bad while that one over there is quite agreeable is to miss the point. That's exactly the kind of shortsighted tunnel-vision that is hoped for by the people who want more control over you. Take my definition from my first paragraph. It is compromising sound principles, not even for short-term gain but for no gain at all, on the grounds of "well at present it's not that bad". Does this sound like the behavior of sane, rational people who are looking after their own interests?

                It's like that saying, when you call things what they are everything becomes so much simpler. This is drastically more clear-cut than issues that cause half the amount of controversy.

                • Re:Woot! (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @03:50PM (#26361943) Journal

                  And allow me to add another reality that many seem to forget. That ANY DRM eventually leads to screwed customers. That is just a fact. Hell that is pretty much the point, since the pirates get around that crap so fast they release before launch date nowadays. So who does that leave if it isn't slowing the pirates? That's right, the poor bastard that actually bought it. I just wish I had saved the emails I shot back and forth with Valve over Steam, because I can tell you that I got screwed. I was one of the idiots that bought HL: GOTY edition and ended up being told to go out and buy it again because some hacker group had come out with a keygen. Look it up, I am FAR from alone with that one. I gave the game away and said never again. I will stick with games that I can get a crack for after purchase and will NEVER deal with that online activation crap again. Fool me once...

                  But allow me to turn it over to someone [youtube.com] who expresses how I fell about DRM now better than I do. While he is not talking about Steam, I think those of us that have been burnt enough(and frankly here who hasn't?) will relate to his story. And be sure to look behind him at the huge amount of money he has given the gaming companies only to be kicked in the nuts. And folks wonder why piracy just seems to be growing. Well how about not kicking the consumer in the nuts when you KNOW that DRM shit does absolutely NOTHING to slow down the pirates? How about that?

                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by Anonymous Coward

                    I just wish I had saved the emails I shot back and forth with Valve over Steam, because I can tell you that I got screwed.

                    Ditto here.

                    I will never give Valve/Steam another penny of my money. And no, I don't pirate their software either- I refuse to support it outright.
                    Am I missing out? Probably, but I'm not going to cave in. I already paid $50 for software I'll never be able to use, so until I get a refund (which won't happen) I'm through with them.
                    Hell, when it happened I would have settled for an apology from them, and even paid a marginal fee to just get a new license number, but they basically accused me of giving out the s

                    • Re:Woot! (Score:5, Insightful)

                      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:20PM (#26366065) Journal

                      Was it HL:GOTY edition? Because it sounds like the same thing that happened to me. I even offered to take a picture of the game with today's newspaper as well as faxing them the receipt. Like you they treated me like a criminal for actually giving them my money. Well I learned my lesson. It will be a cold day in hell before I give Valve another red cent.

                      And for all of you that talk about how wonderful Steam is, what do you think is going to happen when somebody figures out how to hack it? Do you think they won't treat you as a criminal like I was treated? Or what happens when you pick up the box version of a Valve game and some cracker group has released a keygen for it? I will tell you what will happen. Just like what I and this AC had happen. Your money will have been a free gift to Valve with nothing to show for it but rude emails telling you to give them MORE money you dirtbag you.

                      This is why we must always fight DRM in all its forms. Because as we all know it is NOT about piracy. DRM has done nothing in the past 20 years to even put a dent in piracy, and if it was to stop casual piracy, well that was easy enough with the old "bad sector" CD trick. No, this is about control. This is about turning everything you purchase digitally into nothing more than a rental that can be turned off at a whim. As long as you are supporting DRM like Steam, you are saying to the game companies that you are willing to pay full price for something that you have NO control or say over. They can kill the servers, they can use kill bits, or like I and this AC had happen they can simply say "I don't believe you paid for it despite your receipt. Pay for it again." And that is simply unacceptable.

          • Re:Woot! (Score:4, Informative)

            by Ascagnel (826800) <ascagnel+slashdo ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @05:00PM (#26363151) Homepage
            Sony, a RIAA/MPAA member, is the author of SecuROM. For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Securom [wikipedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Hurricane78 (562437)

          Except that they just pulled DRM from the iTunes store. Completely.

          So... how do I put this...?
          I think Dr. Cox says it best [youtube.com].

    • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:41AM (#26356661) Homepage Journal

      I think you could make the argument that a recession makes for extreme competition, and its quite likely that it could turn out that DRM simply has to be dropped because a) it requires more money to actually DRM enable a product, particularly in testing, and b) there might be enough of a critical mass of consumers shopping for content based on the absence of DRM.

      We won't really have a complete victory, though, until we see Microsoft drop entering those silly license key numbers for its products.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Farmer Pete (1350093)
        I don't mind product keys. Sure, they are a little silly, easy to bypass, and can be a pain when you loose them, but they aren't very intrusive after you've entered them. Windows XP wasn't bad. Vista is near the edge between good and bad.
        • by powerlord (28156) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:02AM (#26357665) Journal

          Windows 98 wasn't bad. XP is near the edge between good and bad.

          (editing and emphasis mine)

          Reinstall 98 and you need a key. Sure its easy to bypass, but a legitimate user never experiences a diminishment in functionality from reinstalling and using the product they purchased.

          Reinstall XP and you need a key. That key may or may not authorize. To even find out, you either need an internet connection (not too hard in this day and age), or a telephone connection and you have to sit on the phone and wait. If the system doesn't automatically reauthorize (I had this happen the third time I upgraded my system when the motherboard had blown and it meant I had to replace the Motherboard, CPU and memory), then you have to call and explain to them why you should be allowed to use the product you purchased, even though you are installing a legitimate key.

          The line that MS crossed was deciding that legitimate keys could only be used "so many times" some where in an algorithm.
          This is a diminution of services, and is about the only major erk with XP I currently have. Fortunately they carried it forward to Vista which made my upgrade path more of a migration issue to another OS.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Farmer Pete (1350093)
            I've never had a problem with activating windows xp. I have a copy that I have activated at least half a dozen times. I've moved the license from computer to computer to laptop to computer to computer etc. I've never had it installed more than once, but I've installed the crap out of it. Every time they just ask me how many copies I have installed, and then they give me the unlock code. I guess maybe I have just gotten lucky.
            • by DarthJohn (1160097) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @02:31PM (#26360643)

              The problem is that you have to ask at all.

          • by Schnapple (262314)

            The line that MS crossed was deciding that legitimate keys could only be used "so many times" some where in an algorithm.

            I've done an install of XP with a single retail key in various forms (new machines, VM's, etc.) dozens of times over the last seven years. Never had a problem. If you wait six months between activations then you don't even have to call anyone.

            This legitimate key of yours - was it an OEM key? Those get tied to your motherboard. New motherboard = new machine = new copy of XP. That's why

          • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @01:19PM (#26359479)

            When Windows XP was released, some big customers were worried about depending on an external instance for authorization.

            Microsoft appeased them by releasing the "Corporate Edition" that didn't require remote authorization.

            Guess what happened?
            The "Corporate Edition" got pirated. Once again, those who pirate the software are bothered less than legitimate customers...

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by digitalunity (19107)

              What if I'm both?

              I've bought XP twice already with new computers but got sick of the activation bullshit after upgrading motherboards and pirated the corporate edition to avoid it.

              So I paid for XP twice and got XP Corp. Illegal? Yep.

              Unethical? Not to me it isn't.

          • by Belial6 (794905) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @02:33PM (#26360687)
            You are a perfect example of the industry wearing down the consumer. XP is NEAR the point of bad?!?!?!? XP is over the top bad! The fact that anyone would have to call the manufacturer to get permission to install something they bought is absolution wrong. The fact that when MS eventually decides to stop supporting the authentication servers, the product you bought will stop working is simply criminal. I expect that before shutting down their servers, they will just start racheting up the number of "false positives". We will continue to hear about how lots of people don't have a problem, but enough will that it will be less effort to just buy a new version of Windows than spend your time waiting on hold.

            I'm not trying to insult you here. Just point out that scumbags have tricked you into accepting abuse. You are a victim.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mjwx (966435)

        I think you could make the argument that a recession makes for extreme competition, and its quite likely that it could turn out that DRM simply has to be dropped because a) it requires more money to actually DRM enable a product, particularly in testing, and b) there might be enough of a critical mass of consumers shopping for content based on the absence of DRM.

        You're trying to apply proven business logic to the media industry. Your logic is sound but the media industry is not logical, any industry that

    • Re:Woot! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Farmer Pete (1350093) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:44AM (#26356687)
      All that will come out of this is that the game manufacturers will be forced to put a tiny label on the box saying that it has DRM on it. You'll need a magnifying glass to read it, and you wont know what it means unless you are up on the subject.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nsheppar (889445)
        It could be made like the surgeon general's warning on tobacco products: Warning, buying this product and expecting it to work properly without intrusive copyright protection may be hazardous to your sanity.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I don't hold out a *whole* lot of hope that this will lead to anything useful.

      However, Spore went WAY to far with DRM (like Sony did with music CDs a couple of years ago) and it does like instances where company cross obvious lines to draw attention to issues like this.

      If nothing else, we can at least hope to familiarize those in authority as to how intrusive companies can be with DRM when they are not reigned in.

      -JJS

      • by penix1 (722987)

        Spore simply put a spotlight on the DRM problem. I suspect this move was instigated not really by consumers but by resellers of these games. Whole businesses have sprung up around used games that are threatened by DRM's violation of the First Sale Doctrine. There is more to this than consumer outrage. After all, since when did government care about public outrage...

    • by ultranova (717540)

      These kind of stories swing both ways, and we've had literally dozens of "Finally the pendulum swings the other way moments" that have amounted to nothing more than blips across the radar... But I can't help but optimistically wonder if this is the start of a trend fighting back against corporate abuse of us, the customer?

      No, it's just another blip on the radar.

      Now the RIAA is backpedaling, and DRM is getting an appropriate scrutinizing.

      Copyright cartels have won victory after victory to the detriment of

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlHunt (982887)

      Until consumers effectively rebel against this kind of crap, it ain't going away. And the odds of that are pretty slim. Remember, this is the same population buying "converter boxes" for $40 or more just to continue watching "free tv". Myself, unless the advertisers send me a box for free, I won't be able to view their commercials after February 17th. My, what a loss.

    • by causality (777677)

      These kind of stories swing both ways, and we've had literally dozens of "Finally the pendulum swings the other way moments" that have amounted to nothing more than blips across the radar... But I can't help but optimistically wonder if this is the start of a trend fighting back against corporate abuse of us, the customer? For several years now, I (and probably you) have been inured to new stories about corporation X doing new thing Y to screw customer z, and the news story hasn't even batted an eyelash because we're not surprised. Now the RIAA is backpedaling, and DRM is getting an appropriate scrutinizing. =) Its a good start to 2009!

      The more the abuses go on, the bigger the backlash is going to be when it finally does happen. You could call it conservation of energy. The RIAA may actually be smart enough to understand that, albeit slow to admit and act on the truth of it, though I have my doubts that it will be this way with DRM. Where the RIAA had to go through channels (i.e. the legal system), I think DRM appeals too directly to the fantasy of market control for the content providers to give it up so easily.

      Right now the averag

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:23AM (#26356505)

    Video games are by far the worst candidate for this discussion imho.

    There is very little case law protecting consumer fair use with video games, as compared with audio and video.

    This is a heavy bet on weak prospects.

    Assuming the FTC does determine a need is required for video games, this will provide definitive and hefty leverage to expand it to music and video media.

    If it does not, and it's a high likelihood the FTC determines it does not, it will be MUCH harder to press the issue on, for instance, the fact that blu-ray media will black peoples' screens at random due to undocumented HDCP issues.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by harl (84412)

      True on the farr use but there is a ton of case history involving computer intrusion. That's not what this is about.

      Installing software(securerom) on my computer without my permission is clearly a criminal act.

    • by itsdapead (734413) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:12AM (#26356979)

      There is very little case law protecting consumer fair use with video games, as compared with audio and video.

      I'd have thought that was an argument in favour of starting with video games.

      OK, so all DRM is bad, but the real horror stories (malware, limited installs, mandatory internet connections) have been with games.

      The Spore case is a particularly clear example of DRM pissing off legitimate consumers while failing to deter (and possibly encouraging) large-scale illicit copying.

      Also, whereas issues with Audio/Video DRM are normally to do with caselaw-based "fair use" rights such as format-shifting, the problems with video game DRM have been more fundamental "fitness for purpose" variety. I'm not defending audio/video DRM, but pragmatically speaking, audio DRM seems to be dying off by itself and "your lousy game broke my perfectly standard PC" is going to get more public sympathy than "why can't I watch HD content on Linux?".

      • the Spore case is very clearly one of a handful of trolls on Amazon. Games with DRM in general, however, are a clear case of what you said.

      • This isn't about "i can't watch HD content on linux"

        it's more along the lines of..

        I popped this disk into my completely normal beige box computer and it blacked my screen. I'm being ripped off.

  • Are Pigs Flying? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blcamp (211756) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:24AM (#26356511) Homepage

    Truly a case of Uncle Sam's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, considering the recent creation of a Copyright Czar.

    At least Apple is moving in the right direction, announcing yesterday that it will drop DRM from it's tracks.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4811674a28.html [stuff.co.nz] (and elsewhere)

    • Re:Are Pigs Flying? (Score:5, Informative)

      by teg (97890) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:49AM (#26356733) Homepage
      Apple moved in the right direction a long time ago - the big news yesterday was that the remaining big record companies allowed Apple to sell their music without DRM. Apple has done so with EMI and smaller labels for a while now.
      • by the_arrow (171557)

        Also, it seems that Apple is giving in to the labels wishes to use differentiated pricing.

        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          The sad part is, if the market responds and buys less of the songs at the $1.29 price point than the $0.99 price point, then the industry will likely blame the removal of the DRM for the drop in sales rather than the increase in price.

          • Not really, because price is not necessarily going to stop a person from getting a song. People are willing to pay more for certain songs as the market demands, and selling some songs at less, will generate more sales of those.

            Removing DRM is a big thing. Overall I dont think it woudl make any difference in sales, and may even increase sales overall, as that is what the trends are.

            • by MBGMorden (803437)

              Price will not stop everyone, but saying that raising the cost of an item (by 30% no less) will not stop some people from buying it is a bit naive.

              Put it this way: I personally might still pay $1.29 for some songs. $0.99 would be better. However, $1.99 would be too much. So somewhere between $0.99 and $1.99 is my threshold (and just personally I'd say that threshold is probably $1.49 for ME). However, for some others, their threshold will fall between $0.99 and $1.29 - it could likely be the old old cos

              • by Binestar (28861)

                It will also affect the people who have a strict budget that they follow for various things. Someone has $20 to spend on music. Used to be able to buy 20 songs. now they can buy 15.

                The number of songs sold goes down, income stays the same.

          • I don't think the industry needs pesky things like "facts" for them to blame piracy for bringing down their profits.

            You ascribe to them much undeserved truthiness.

  • by aethelwyrd (1410845) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:31AM (#26356571)
    I'm sure the government knows exactly what its doing. They will have a bunch of town hall meetings, do a lot of research and studies, collect a lot of money from large corporations and then come up with a centralized DRM server that everyone will be required by law to use.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:41AM (#26356665)

      I would actually like that solution very much.

      It still has quite a lot of bad sides of DRM but at least we would have some non-corporate organization keeping the server up and eliminating the risk that corporation loses interest and DRM products won't work.

      For any who think that government is no more trustworthy in this than corporations... Not only do I disagree but it doesn't matter. If there is gov run DRM server that goes down, corporations can (if they have the interest) set up their own servers again. If corporation's DRM server goes down, government isn't there to pick the pieces.

      So I for one have little (read: not "none". I still doubt those products would work well on the platfrom I'm writing this from.) problems with the idea of government ran DRM server.

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @01:09PM (#26359341) Homepage Journal

        Not me.

        I'd like to see a new Digital Millineum Copyright Act that actually made sense. My DMCA would state that any work protected by technological means automatically loses its copyright on the grounds that it needs no legal protection.

        You have copyright? You don't need DRM. You have DRM? You don't need copyright.

        I'd also like to see copyrights expire after 20 years. Jimi Hendrix' music, JRR Tolkein's books, DOS 2.0, Disney's Fantasia, all should be in the public domain. That is, after all, why the US Constutution grants Congress the privelege of making copyright in the first place.

        • That's a nice idea, but the only reason DRM exists is because law enforcement isn't perfect, in fact outside of mass piracy cases they don't even try. So that position wouldn't make a whole lot of sense, because people would say, so what? I can't rely on copyright anyway, so taking it away from me won't change much. All it'd do is make DRM even more draconian than today as companies lose the ability to prosecute the really big professional pirates.

          • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @04:20PM (#26362425) Homepage Journal

            That's a nice idea, but the only reason DRM exists is because law enforcement isn't perfect

            DRM does not and cannot work. It only tends to inconvience the paying customer while doing nothing whatever to slow copyright infringement. DRM is a padlock with the key hanging from a chain attached to the padlock. As limited as law enforcent may be, DRM does not help a single whit.

            Sony's ill-fated XCP had the price of having every single customer whose equipment was ruined by it swear to never ever buy another Sony product again. I'm a good example - I paid $1000 for a Sony Trinitron; I'd bought a Sony boom box, walkman, diskman, and God knows what other Sony products.

            Then my daughter, who worked in a record store, brought a CD home, and the only CD player was the PC's CDROM. As I'd shut off autoplay and she trusted the record label, she actually ran one of the programs on the disk. Fixing it cost me hardware replacemet, software replacement, and God knows how many hours of my time.

            As a rusult, I will never EVER buy another Sony product of any kind again. They have shown themselves to be a company run by sociopaths who install a rootkit on their paying customers' computers. I would be an idiot to buy anything from them.

            The sad part is, the dumbasses probably didn't realize how evil that particular brand of DRM (which ironically and hypocritically included FOSS software, itself being a copyright infringement) was malware.

            If your company uses DRM, you are putting your company in danger of making enemies of your faithful customers.

            Before the digital age, there was no DRM but there was copyright infringement. Law enforcement handled it well enough that no company ever went broke as a result of not having it.

            DRM is brain dead stupid. If you buy a product using DRM, you are giving your money to morons.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        So I for one have little (read: not "none". I still doubt those products would work well on the platfrom I'm writing this from.) problems with the idea of government ran DRM server.

        But I do, and it's a big one: it will let the government know exactly what content I'm using and when. Every time you read an infected book, it's logged into government database; every time you watch infected movie, it's logged into a government database; every time you listen to an infected song, it's logged into a government d

  • It was my impression that any legal ambiguity surrounding viruses had been cleared long ago.
  • by fgaliegue (1137441) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:32AM (#26356581)

    http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/12/20/178259 [slashdot.org]

    Go read it. Seriously. The author has many good point, and this panel only highlights the points he makes.

    The /. comments on this article are spot on, in the sense that most of them are knee-jerk reactions predicted all along the article. Sad.

    • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:00AM (#26356833)

      I think the guy's "good points" were rendered null and void when he slammed everyone who engages in civil disobedience against unjust, anti-consumer, and economically crushing copyright over-reach.

      Apparently he wasn't paying attention when the elephant walked into the room and crushed the fledgling digital age, crib and all.

      • Your reaction just proves my point. Read the article. I mean it.

        • Your reaction just proves my point. Read the article. I mean it.

          I'm sorry, but the fact an article which short-sightedly bashes people for their rightful conclusions about unjust copyright law accurately predicts people being indignant about its veiled invective does not make it or its author any more correct.

          "judge, that there (n-word redacted) just wants white women! Don't believe me? He'll get pissed off and indignant if you tell him he does"

      • by conlaw (983784)
        Describing piracy as

        civil disobedience against unjust, anti-consumer, and economically crushing copyright over-reach,

        is rather disingenuous. I agree that the extreme extensions of the length of copyright protections have become "the elephant in the room." However, piracy of new games, music and/or movies is not truly a civil protest against those extensions but is actually a complete rejection of any form of copyright.

        Consider, for example, a fairly recent example of true civil disobedience to an unjust law - the Mongomery Bus Boycott (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_Bus_Boycott). Those w

        • except im not talking about length. The length of copyright protections isn't the elephant in the room.

          The elephant in the room goes by the name of "DMCA section 1201: prohibitions against circumvention of technical protection measures"

          There's a reason there's no box that plays everything, and everyone loves to ignore that big fat pink elephant.

        • by bentcd (690786)

          Consider, for example, a fairly recent example of true civil disobedience to an unjust law - the Mongomery Bus Boycott (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_Bus_Boycott). Those who wished to bring attention to the unjustness of the bus segregation rules did not ride the busses while paying nothing or only what they felt was a "fair" price; they simply refused to ride the busses.

          That would not be civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is to willfully, and usually with great public fanfare, break a law in an attempt to showcase the unjustness of that law. Choosing not to take a bus is a customer choice, not civil disobedience.

          Piracy as civil disobedience is mostly criticized not because piracy is illegal (if it were legal, it couldn't be civil disobedience) but because it's usually carried out covertly and that voids the whole point of engaging in civil disobedience. It's hard to sh

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:34AM (#26356593) Homepage Journal

    At the very least, the FTC should make it illegal to advertise any product infected with DRM as a "sale" as opposed to a "rental" or "lease". As it's impossible to own them, that's false advertising.

    Yes, that means that everyone from Wal-Mart to the local mom-and-pop would have to change their advertising, in-store displays, and receipt printouts. That's a problem for them to work out with their suppliers, though.

    • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:48AM (#26356727)

      At the very least, the FTC should make it illegal to advertise any product infected with DRM as a "sale" as opposed to a "rental" or "lease". As it's impossible to own them, that's false advertising.

      At the very least, the FTC should make it illegal to sell software that hides itself and makes it difficult or impossible to remove when you are done with it.

      Uninstalling the game should not leave your PC in a reduced functionality state.

      The FTC should also require the game to isolate the game functions from the rest of the computer functions. Playing a game and exiting should never leave your CD burner inop.

      • by parkrrrr (30782) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:34AM (#26357285)

        As it happens, I was browsing the laws for my state of residence (Indiana) last night, looking for something else entirely, and I came across this [in.gov]:

        IC 24-4.8-2-2
                  Sec. 2. A person who is not the owner or operator of the computer may not knowingly or intentionally:
                        (1) transmit computer software to the computer; and
                        (2) by means of the computer software transmitted under subdivision (1), do any of the following:
        [...]
                                (D) Use intentionally deceptive means to prevent reasonable efforts by an owner or operator to block or disable the installation or execution of computer software.
                                (E) Knowingly or intentionally misrepresent that computer software will be uninstalled or disabled by an owner or operator's action.
        [...]
                                (I) Prevent reasonable efforts by an owner or operator to block or disable the installation or execution of computer software by:
                                        (i) presenting an owner or operator with an option to decline installation of computer software knowing that the computer software will be installed even if the owner or operator attempts to decline installation; or
                                        (ii) falsely representing that computer software has been disabled.

        (The bit about "transmit computer software to the computer" is defined to include providing a DVD or other physical media.)

        I'm not sure what legal recourse it provides, but it seems like a start anyway.

      • by deraj123 (1225722)

        So, the FTC should not allow me to purchase software that hides itself and makes it difficult or impossible to remove? What if I want this sort of software? What right does my government have keeping me from it. (Sure, I don't want it, but that doesn't mean my government should prevent me from buying it.)

        It would seem more appropriate to me that the FTC requires the sellers of this sort of software to make it very clear that the software does these things.

    • Actually (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      I'd be fine if they'd just make retailers take returns. That's the problem right now is that you can't return games. So you buy a game, turns out the DRM doesn't work on your system, or maybe you simply don't approve of it. Well too bad, it's opened, so you can't take it back. That is bullshit. I'd be happy if the government just said "You are required to accept a return on any title that has DRM on it just as you would for any other merchandise." That way if the DRM screws you over, you can just take the g

      • by deraj123 (1225722)

        A genuine question here - aren't there fit for purpose laws that already exist that could be applied to this? As in, I purchased this software, but it doesn't work satisfactorily (screws up my computer), so I get to return it.

  • When I hear that the Government wants to look into something to protect the Consumer I know it's going to be bend over time for the Consumer as the Government gets together with Business to screw us all over. DRM and all of that crap needs to go away but it won't, it'll get the government gloss over to mollify those of us who are angry, they'll give it a better Orwellian name and call it a day.
    • I'm a Republican and I'm pretty cynical about Dems, obviously, but I think in this case you can expect them to improve things like consumer labelling and consumer rights. Usually where Dems screw up is to give consumers and workers so many rights that it is pointless to invest in a business in that sector because it is difficult and ultimately unprofitable. However, the IT sector has become so anti-consumer that it is hurting the business as a whole, it seems rather unlikely that a few years of some modes

      • Should read. The IT sector has become so anti-consumer that it seems rather likely that some consumer protections by the federal government would restore public confidence in the sector and thus improve business as a whole. In other words, this could be a case where some prudent regulation by the Feds could make a playing field that the public trusts, and thus, buys stuff in.

    • by wisty (1335733)

      What's the bet they decide that the best way to protect consumers is to have a common, reliable DRM system, rather than ad-hoc unreliable DRM. Then they can legally enforce everyone has to use it.

      I bet that most of the attendees of any "Town Hall" meeting are paid lobbyists, and not many of them will represent consumers.

      Add that to the fact that the lobbyists will understand the problem better than our elected representatives, and their (biased) ideas will probably be the best ones to reach the ears of the

  • I can't help but think that given previous actions to "protect consumers" or "offer consumers choices" that this will mean greater penalties for circumventing DRM, more restrictive schemes, or limitations on online boycotts or protests, like the Amazon reviews for Spore.

  • Hmm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by XPeter (1429763)

    The Government is getting ready to "Take a hard look at DRM". Hey, you never know. If they look hard enough they might find that EA started a 50 billion dollar ponzi scheme! Oh man, wouldn't that be great.

  • So, they're setting up a town hall meeting? Shall we start a pool to see which company/*IAA-organization will bus in the most people to occupy seats so that nobody with an honest clue about the subject can show up and be involved in the discussion?
  • by X.25 (255792)

    So, they'll have free drinks, chit-chat for a while, and nothing will change.

  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:09AM (#26356937) Homepage Journal

    Lately that's meant that industry heavies are busy trying to stuff the panel with their own 'experts', doesn't it?

    And then three months after this is all done with, we'll start seeing stories about how a quarter of the panelists have been discovered as previously employed by one of the RIAA's shadow groups, in addition to several other panelists receipt of airline tickets to hong kong (as well as an all-expenses paid week there for a meeting) as well as other weakly disguised "gifts" being scrutinized.

    What amazes me is they continue to get away with this same old game, time and time again. This wouldn't be a problem if the followup had some teeth to it. What do you do when this all comes to light after the event? Remove them from the panel? Fat lot of good that does after they've "made their recommendations" etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm in Eastern Europe (Ukraine) right now on a trip. Walked into a DVD/PC games/PS2 game store. There were legal copies of a tiny number of games for sale at UAH 125 each (around $15, but this number is a bit warped due to the fact that the Ukraine currency has plummeted very recently) and a giant amount of games, dvds, etc for sale for around UAH 20 to 35 each, including all of the games that were for sale legally. curious, i went into another store, then another, and found that those dispensed with the

    • ...this is a girl who drives a car better than most of you probably did at her age ...

      Sorry, you lost me on the significance of this.
  • My ass.

    They are going to protect the interests of the mega corporations that funnel donation money in.

    Its how the 'system' works.

  • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:50AM (#26358265) Homepage Journal

    A DVD or Bluray player, right out of the box, implements DRM. It doesn't need modification, because it comes pre-crippled. When the user buys a shiny disc and inserts it (and executes code from it, in the case of Bluray) nothing unexpectedly bad can happen. The player device is not damaged.

    On personal computers, though, the situation is altogether different. DRM isn't already implemented out-of-the-box; installing malware is the only way to implement it. When you install Spore, your software environment is damaged, even when you're not playing Spore.

    FTC shouldn't talk about this as a discussion of DRM itself, because DRM problems will still exist regardless of anything FTC does. They should instead call it a discussion about malware that implements the DRM.

    This is ultimately about what labeling conventions imply consent on the part of the victim. If there isn't informed consent, then what Spore's publishers did is a crime, so there should be both criminal and civil sanctions, just like there would be if the author of some spam botnet worm were caught. If there is informed consent, then the victim isn't a victim of crime, they're just a victim of their own stupidity because they bought Spore when they should have known better.

    Hopefully the outcome will be that the FTC will say that any software that is sold over state lines, will have to have a label on the outside of the box and in all advertisements: "this contains malware and will damage your operating system if installed" in situations where that happens to be the case.

    • by bentcd (690786)

      A DVD or Bluray player, right out of the box, implements DRM. It doesn't need modification, because it comes pre-crippled. When the user buys a shiny disc and inserts it (and executes code from it, in the case of Bluray) nothing unexpectedly bad can happen. The player device is not damaged.

      Not until they revoke your player's key. Then something bad happens.

  • by argent (18001)

    Will they even consider requiring notifications about more important DRM like Microsoft's trusted media path, tilt bits, and "windows genuine advantage"?

    Oh, was that a rhetorical question?

  • The only thing that will work is to vote with our wallets.
    Don't put up with any DRM at all in your life.
    Just don't buy any media, software, operating system or even device that implements DRM.

    I'm guessing EA are already suprised by a large difference in estimated and real profits of spore. In fact I hope they actually made a net loss on it after development costs. They need to get the clear message that people didn't buy it because of the DRM and not just blame their low sales on the game being crap or the

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @12:26PM (#26358749) Homepage

    When copyright is revoked and universal distribution of everything for free is the rule, there will be no more DRM.

    Only free software will exist, because nobody will be able to charge anything for it anymore.

    Of course, the quality might suffer a little and there might be a few less items out there, but it will all be free. Oh, and you might have to spend a week or so figuring out how to compile a game before you can play it.

    Until some really smart people figure out how this can actually work it is going to be tough. People really want stuff for free and plenty of people are willing to buy things and post them for all to download. Of course, a lot of that is stuff bought with stolen credit cards... but the spirit is there. I don't see any turning back from the "it all should be for free" movement. At least until the last vestiges of decadent Western civiilization is wiped off the map.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bentcd (690786)

      When copyright is revoked and universal distribution of everything for free is the rule, there will be no more DRM.

      Only free software will exist, because nobody will be able to charge anything for it anymore.

      You are mistaken. It is perfectly possible to make good money charging for an item that can also be obtained for free. You just need to know your market and have a good idea of people's cutoff point between cost and convenience.

      There's plenty of companies reaping huge profits from selling plain bottled water in towns and cities were you can get perfectly good water for free through your kitchen tap. It's just that stepping into that store over there and plonking down a buck for a bottle of water is /so much

  • Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by readin (838620) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @01:10PM (#26359355)
    Allow me to translate:

    Ars Technica reports that the FTC is getting ready to take a hard look at gaming DRM, setting up a town hall meeting to be held on March 25th. They're currently recruiting panelists, and they say the meeting will, in part, "address the need to improve disclosures to consumers about DRM limitations."

    A longer legal notice will be included with each product (alongside the warnings about not sticking a fork in electric sockets or using the device as a parachute when jumping from an airplane) thus making it less likely to be read by comsumers, less likely to be understood if they do read it, and written in a smaller font so it can still fit on the same amount of paper.

    The controversy over DRM came to a head in 2008 with the release of Spore and the multiple subsequent class-action lawsuits focusing on the SecuROM software that came with the game. Ars Technica says the town hall meeting will also look at "legal issues surrounding DRM"

    New laws will be written to protect the makers of Spore, SecuROM and other DRM enabled or enabling technology from the evils of class action lawsuits that would otherwise result when consumers find they can't use the products they have paid for.

    and "the potential need for government involvement to protect consumers."

    Consumers will be protected from the higher prices that result when people are able to use a purchased product more than once. By making sure people can only use a product one time, people will need to keep repurchasing the same item over and over, allowing manufacturers to produce larger numbers of the same item and sell these items at a volume discount.

    The phrase government involvement may scare some readers, but don't worry! Those generous manufacturers, who only want to keep our prices low after all, will be watching the FTC, providing donations to the right lawmakers, all to make sure that consumer interests are protected every step of the way.

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