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Federal Trade Commission To Scrutinize DRM

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the uncle-sam-is-tired-of-installing-securom dept.

Government 211

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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211 comments

Woot! (5, Insightful)

Notabadguy (961343) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Woot! (2, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356529)

2009: The Year Of Consumer Protection!

Re:Woot! (-1, Offtopic)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356565)

...especially the weapon consumers who benefit from the current USian status quo so they can maim as many innocents as they want whereas Bush shred what remains of his presidential secrets while Obama stands outside in the cold, gathering imaginary friends who'll fuck us even deeper.

Want us to feel actually protected? On the 20th, I want Cheney and Bush indicted.

Re:Woot! (4, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356611)

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! (3, Informative)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357323)

What does the MAFIAA have to do with gaming DRM?

RIAA and MPAA license to big game developers (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358013)

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! (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Consumers are in the driver's seat now. (5, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356661)

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:Consumers are in the driver's seat now. (2, Insightful)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357389)

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.

Re:Consumers are in the driver's seat now. (4, Insightful)

powerlord (28156) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357665)

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:Consumers are in the driver's seat now. (2, Informative)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358207)

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.

Re:Consumers are in the driver's seat now. (1)

Schnapple (262314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358379)

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 the OEM copies are so cheap, and why people should really avoid them. Meanwhile I've had at least four motherboards over the life of my retail copy of XP, to say nothing of the times I've activated it in a VM.

Re:Consumers are in the driver's seat now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358815)

I'm going to assume that you, like 99% of home users are using OEM software. OEM software is software that is licensed for use only with 1 computer.

Installing windows on any new computer or upgraded motherboard requires a new copy of windows for the machine.

That's the agreement with windows OEM. The use of an activation system to prevent people from breaking the agreement (ala: piracy) is a reasonable requirement.

During the activation period, you get 30 days from installation to activate windows, during that time you have full and unrestricted use of windows. So its quite generous with the activation time-frame.

The issues most of us have with other DRM systems is that companies use it as an underhanded way to prevent competition, install hidden system processes (or rootkits), or as just another way to fleece you for additional money.

Microsoft don't do any of that with their activation, Its simply a way to ensure your using what you paid for.

Anyone who thinks that's unacceptable must hate going to the movies. What with having to pay for the ticket and then later having to present proof of purchase to gain entry (repeatedly showing proof if you leave and re-enter the cinema), oh the indignity!

Re:Consumers are in the driver's seat now. (1)

dontbgay (682790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357667)

Ummmm.. how is the parent modded funny? Did I miss the joke?

It seems more to be insightful. However improbable, it's still plausible.

Re:Woot! (5, Insightful)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Woot! (2, Insightful)

JeffSpudrinski (1310127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357339)

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

Re:Woot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357717)

Town hall meeting is a code word for "convince the public"

Re:Woot! (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357737)

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 everyone else, in the USA and everywhere else. That a single copyright cartel is taking a pause in their extortion campaign in no way changes that. And DRM is being scrutinized, not condemned - even at the very best this will simply result in a "Contains DRM" sticker on the gamebox.

Its a good start to 2009!

No, it's not. It simply isn't the absolute worst it could be.

Re:Woot! (2, Insightful)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357791)

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.

Re:Woot! (1)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357973)

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 average customer does not fully understand the restrictive technologies behind DRM. This is rather well-known and often discussed. What is not discussed as often is the philosophy of control and the assumption of bad faith that is behind it. If the content providers continue to embrace DRM and add more and more restrictions, and if this results in the general public receiving a rude awakening, it could be one of the best things to happen. If there is a backlash, what I hope is that it will be against excessive control and far-reaching restrictions in general and not against the particular tools (DRM, etc.) that are currently being used to bring this about. You know that saying about how the government should fear the people and the people should not fear their government? I believe that corporations should fear their customers for all of the same reasons. I'd rather see a large number of people get pissed off and decide that they're never going to put up with this shit anymore no matter how badly they wanted that movie or that video game, than see the FTC tell the media companies to play nice with their DRM. Any day.

Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode well (4, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (2, Interesting)

harl (84412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356925)

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.

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (4, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?".

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357287)

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.

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

dontbgay (682790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357713)

"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."

So you mean the trolls did something good?

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

Rutefoot (1338385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357703)

The pissing people off aspect isn't really even the problem. The market will sort that stuff out eventually as people stop buying products from companies that make using their products a pain in the ass.

The damage done to PCs is the bigger issue. When you buy medication you are given a list of side effects on the packaging that warns you of potential risks. You might be buying the pills to make your penis bigger, but you have every right to know that despite the enjoyment you'll receive from the bigger dick, you might have to deal with that pesky issue of having a heart attack or aneurysm.

Software gives you no such warning. People have a right to know that installing a game might end up forcing them to take their computer in to get repaired and/or losing all of their data because of hidden software (extreme example).

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357749)

You might be buying the pills to make your penis bigger

Something tells me that the "medication" sold to make your penis bigger probably doesn't come with full disclosure of potential side effects ;)

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

Zenaku (821866) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357981)

That's because sugar pills don't have any side-effects.

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358063)

That's because sugar pills don't have any side-effects.

Well if you eat enough of them they might make other parts of your body fat but probably not the part that you bought them for ;)

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357127)

The problem with most DRM implementations they are setup for products that are only entertainment related. It is tough to say that anyone who cannot use this product due to DRM restrictions is going to suffer from it.

Oh I am sorry you cannot play this game or play your music on Linux. But really with all the problems in the world this just seems really minor. It is akin to a wealthy man complaining about the economy and had to let go of one of his many maids.

I would focus DRM in areas that are not entertainment related. Such as Windows Activation where you loose your OS functionality when Microsoft servers have a glitch or upgrading your PC, or worse putting Linux as your primary OS and Virtualizing Windows. This is the stuff that is hindering productive use. Things that you can get people to rally behind from a politicians perspective. Espectially with Windows as it is near impossible to pirate. As every near every PC you buy has Windows on it, and you paid MS for that indirectly. The small amount who don't buy Preloaded PC's you can assume Macs, and homebuilt for the most part. For the Macs most don't install Windows, many with Home built buy a legit version of windows. The Rest of the population who do Pirate Windows are balanced from the people take it off their system to install Linux or whatever, combined with returned Damaged Units which may just get tossed out with a legit Windows License.

Part of the success of early Windows was the fact that it was easily pirated. Hey let me borrow your Windows 98 CD to upgrade my 95 System. Windows 98 had integrated web browser built in so after the upgrade the person started to use Internet Explorer over Netscape. Or even earlier, Lets give MS DOS a try over DR. DOS wow MS Dos runs my games so much quicker then DR. DOS. Hey MS. DOS 5 was released I think I'll buy a copy. Or hey MS Dos comes with gwbasic/QBASIC I think I will use this for development. Wow my app is nice I need a Basic Compiler QuickBasic should do the trick. Hey now with windows there is Visual Basic I will go with that.

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

dontbgay (682790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357763)

Excellent point, but you won't garner any public support as it is now. People want their computers to play games, surf the internet, look at porn, and do their banking. They don't care about installs because they don't do them. People don't realize that things aren't the way they're supposed to be. This is a step in the right direction because it addresses something that everyone can get behind. When the precedent for striking down or curbing DRM has been set, we can hope for someone out there to broaden the scope.

Re:Video Games a Bad Candidate,this doesn't bode w (1)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358679)

The problem with most DRM implementations they are setup for products that are only entertainment related. It is tough to say that anyone who cannot use this product due to DRM restrictions is going to suffer from it.

Anyone who, acting in good faith, pays good money for any product that turns out to be unusable, when there was a reasonable expectation that it should be usable, has suffered. This is more true, not less, when the actual cause of the problem is not an honest mistake but a deliberate restriction. Any person who fits my description who is denied a refund has been defrauded. That's the essence of the phrase "defective by design".

Oh I am sorry you cannot play this game or play your music on Linux. But really with all the problems in the world this just seems really minor. It is akin to a wealthy man complaining about the economy and had to let go of one of his many maids.

There is an idea, well really it's more of an observation, that every big menacing problem was once a small problem that could have been easily dealt with. It's our lack of foresight and our unwillingness to take an idea to its completion that keeps us from seeing the problems while they are still small.

"I can't play this music on Linux" is a very small problem indeed. "I can't make any changes to any equipment I supposedly own or view any media for which I bought a license without first obtaining approval from several different companies" is a much larger problem. Both have the same nature. The only difference between them is degree. The first example is the small problem that is tough but not so hard to deal with. The second example is more like what you would get if the acceptability of this kind of control is taken to its conclusion. The problem is that this is very much a "frog soup" type of situation, so the time to start protesting it is now.

That's the beauty of having principles and considering these matters in terms of underlying principles. You don't have to wait until freedoms are taken away before you realize that this is where the situation is headed. You also don't have to worry about whether it's a big step towards reducing freedom or a baby-step towards reducing freedom before you realize that any step towards that is simply unacceptable.

Are Pigs Flying? (4, Interesting)

blcamp (211756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356511)

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? (4, Informative)

teg (97890) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356733)

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.

Re:Are Pigs Flying? (1)

the_arrow (171557) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356929)

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

Re:Are Pigs Flying? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357115)

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.

Re:Are Pigs Flying? (1)

SenseiLeNoir (699164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358411)

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.

Re:Are Pigs Flying? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358555)

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 cost of exactly $0.99. Those people will buy less music.

Now in this case there has been a quality improvement (removal of DRM), but it remains to be seen whether the customers gained from that move will offset the customers lost by the move to a higher cost for some songs.

For the $0.69 songs it's pretty much win/win, but my guess is that those probably aren't affiliated with the RIAA anyways.

Governments are smart (5, Funny)

aethelwyrd (1410845) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Governments are smart (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Governments are smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358239)

Really, it's a problem already solved with the concept of liability. the FCC should only drop the non liability on software vendors, and then leave to the class actions to regulate companies.

Re:Governments are smart (1)

KeithJM (1024071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357785)

a centralized DRM server that everyone will be required by law to use.

I don't think that would be constitutional in the US. It violates the first amendment to require everyone in the country (or anyone in the country) to give the government control of access to your videos, music, audible books and/or games.

You could make it optional (the federal government runs a DRM server and you can make use of it), but not required.

Re:Governments are smart (1)

jsalbre (663115) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358051)

You and I must be reading different constitutions. I see nothing in the First Amendment about videos, music, games, DRM or anything of the sort.

The First Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Re:Governments are smart (1)

KeithJM (1024071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358195)

I see nothing in the First Amendment about videos, music, games, DRM or anything of the sort.

Expression through music or video falls under free speech. In fact, even things like t-shirts and flag-burning demonstrations have been ruled to be free speech. Requiring you to surrender control of your speech to a government-run DRM server would be abridging your free speech.

I'm not sure if the original poster was serious or not, but I wouldn't be shocked if the idea is seriously considered at some point.

Linking to a previous news item (4, Insightful)

fgaliegue (1137441) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Linking to a previous news item (4, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Linking to a previous news item (1)

fgaliegue (1137441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356875)

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

Re:Linking to a previous news item (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357817)

It ook quite some time to go through that long essay but all in all it was time well spent. Finally I have some hard data on piracy. I have to say I more or less expected such figures but did not know how much zero-day piracy affects game releases. A good read, effectively debunking lots of myths loved by the "pirate culture".
Disclaimer: I am one of those who do it "because they can"

Re:Linking to a previous news item (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358151)

I noticed the publishers talked a lot about just trying to hold off pirated copies so they could get first day sales. Like a bad movie, word of mouth gets out about bad games and no one wants it. With all the major game publishers buying off game reviews so even bad games get a good review, it's hard to know if you should really buy the game. Sales fall over time due to piracy AND sucky games that got a false good review. It's not an excuse, but piracy does give a "try before you buy" option in an environment where you can't really trust game reviews.

Re:Linking to a previous news item (1)

conlaw (983784) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358593)

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 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.

Likewise, an appropriate protest against "copyright over-reach" would be a refusal to use the overreaching media in any form; in other words, don't buy it, don't pirate it, and don't even use the free demo. If everyone who feels "economically crushed" by the current copyright laws had the patience to boycott the products, they might be able to change the current rules rather than encouraging the producers to try more restrictive means of enforcement.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26356941)

Yeah, I read this article a long time ago and it really presented the whole DRM + Piracy debate in a new light. I don't pirate games but I also felt kind of uneasy about installing DRM which had a reputation for blowing up my system. Now I don't mind at all, because the problems are generally way overrated and being a software developer I can understand totally why they would go with DRM, to make sure that their precious day one sales don't get cannibalized.

Damn, no Funny mod points left! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357755)

This post is really great, how it manages to remain on the edge of trolling, but you're not quite sure.

Well, I might be feeding the trolls today, but if the poster was serious, he also forgot that little thing, you know, what was it? "Totally destroying the resale value and second-hand market"? Yes, that's it!

At the bare minimum... (4, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356593)

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.

Re:At the bare minimum... (5, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:At the bare minimum... (3, Interesting)

parkrrrr (30782) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:At the bare minimum... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357719)

Well ... I suppose it could form the basis for either the State Attorney General or a Class Action Suit against EA for having broken state law by selling Spore, and other games that fall under that description?

Re:At the bare minimum... (1)

deraj123 (1225722) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357455)

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.

Re:At the bare minimum... (1)

dontbgay (682790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357841)

Wasn't there something done like this sometime in the past? Something about a Surgeon General or something... cancer.. low birth weights..

If only I could remember...

Actually (2, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356753)

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 game back.

Now of course they'd whine and bitch that people would use this to "rent" games. As in buy them, try them, then take them back. Possible, people are known to do that with things they want for just a little while. However that's why I'd require it only for DRM'd games. You want to release a game with no DRM, then it's fine to not take returns.

Re:Actually (1)

deraj123 (1225722) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357525)

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.

Re:Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357625)

I'd be fine if they'd just make retailers take returns.

If the DRM actually doesn't work on your system and your system meets the stated game specs, then (in most juridictions) the retailer is legally required to take returns regardless of their 'policy', since the item is clearly not 'fit for purpose'. Of course, you might have to take them to the local equivalent of the UK small claims court to enforce your rights, but that shouldn't take much time or money, and could be fun - often they fail to show at court and you can then go to the store with baliffs and the court order and seize goods to cover the value of the judgement, reasonable costs and the baliff's fee. **

** IANAL but I'm sure this is about 99% correct.

Re:At the bare minimum... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26356773)

To expand on that comment, as a rental or lease, you would be able to return it when you were finished using it. Thus the sophistry of "sale", where you don't own it (per the EULA).

When I hear - Govt Wants To Protect the Consumer (3, Interesting)

gadlaw (562280) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356601)

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.

Give the Democrats a chance. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356735)

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 modest consumer protections by the government would improve the public's faith in IT and the business as a whole.

Let's just hope they don't open the door for lawsuits based on bugs in software by making it illegal to have that little clause we ALL stick in our licenses, both open and closed, that lets us off the hook if our software fails. Preventing a regulation like that from coming into being is something you would hope that Republicans would be smart enough to do, although sadly there's not too much evidence of my beloved GOP being smart about anything these days. [tongue firmly planted in cheek]

Ooops - meant "likely", not "unlikely" (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356761)

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.

Re:When I hear - Govt Wants To Protect the Consume (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356763)

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 real decision makers.

Australia has this great show called "The Hollowmen", which parodies this process. I've heard it isn't too far from the truth, in some cases.

Who are their consumers? (1)

timon (46050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356633)

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... (3, Funny)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356635)

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.

scrutinizing the ftc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26356639)

looks like the prospective inmates are training the 'first time' offenders. better days ahead.

Town Hall Meeting (0, Troll)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356643)

"setting up a town hall meeting"

Is anyone else really sick of these things being called "town hall meetings"? If I wasn't from the US, I'd think we were all tobacco chewing cowboys who transform into angry, torch bearing mobs at night.

Re:Town Hall Meeting (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356669)

While most of the events that get called "town hall meetings" are shams at best, it should be noted that the origin of the term is in New England, not cowboy country.

Town Hall Meeting (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356645)

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?

Re:Town Hall Meeting (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356707)

Why can't it be all of them?

Re:Town Hall Meeting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26356787)

Agreed! What with the difficulty finding a job in this economy, we need more companies hiring people to do this.

I sense a new source of job growth here!

Re:Town Hall Meeting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358847)

You know when and where it will be. Get up off of that couch in your parent's basement and go yourself!

Hah (1)

X.25 (255792) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356839)

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

Re:Hah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26358463)

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

It might not be that bad. We might get donuts too.

Here's a thought... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26356873)

Stop buying them. Last I checked, computer games aren't necessary for living. If it's gotten to the point where it is this painful to buy and play them, then stop. This isn't rocket science. If a retailer has a product that you don't want, then don't purchase it. If you're unsure, do yourself a favor and don't rush out and buy it- wait and see how others react to it.

If it hasn't gotten to that point, then stop complaining.

But for God's sake, stop relying on businesses and the government to protect you from bad purchases. Ultimately, that's your responsibility.

Re:Here's a thought... (4, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357131)

Bit I want to purchase it. I want the game and the publisher wants my money. I just don't want it bundled with the DRM. We're both losing out here!

But if I complain, and if they listen, and they release without DRM, we'll both be richer! Win, win!

Re:Here's a thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357671)

But you're subsidizing the pirates if you pay that way, leading to higher costs (arguably) or at least less choice (unarguably) for you. There's some balance between complete freedom (which encourages piracy) and complete restriction (which discourages use), and I would strongly suggest, given the rampant piracy in some countries and online, the balance is too far to the side of 'freedom' right now. Sure, moving the slide towards 'more intrustive DRM' might piss off a few honest users in the short term and we all wish i think for the silver bullet of totally unobtrusive yet fair DRM, but let me ask you this: what would you prefer (hypothetically): a bit more headache or twice the number of available titles in your chosen genre? I know i'd personally go for the latter (I am a microsoft flight simulator fan, and have seen the market for quality add-on products completely implode in the last 2-3 years due to rampant piracy, since for technical reasons msfs add-ons are hard to protect). the freeware alternatives dont come close in quality, generally speaking.

Re:Here's a thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357699)

Well, yes... *if*.

"If" covers a lot of ground, most of it imaginary.

And when the world gets perfect again (I hear it was a nice place before people came about) that's a great scenario.

But game publishers aren't known for listening. And the government isn't known for making things better.

And this whole thing comes down to simple pragmatism. If you buy PC games, you obviously value the game with DRM more than you value not having the game. Or at least, you are willing to take the risk of crippling DRM (or potentially worse- cripplingly poor game programming) in order to avoid not having the game.

All I'm saying is if that's a choice you're willing to make, then ultimately you have to bear some of the responsibility for what happens next. It's not like DRM comes as a big surprise these days- in fact, I'd say it's unreasonable to assume that any game you buy *won't* come with some form of restrictive DRM. If this bothers you enough that the games are no longer worth what you pay for them, in terms of money and hassle, then *don't* *buy* *them*.

As an added bonus, nothing gets a reaction out of corporation faster than declining revenue.

Re:Here's a thought... (1)

FerociousFerret (533780) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358291)

As an added bonus, nothing gets a reaction out of corporation faster than declining revenue.

I believe the corporate think is declining revenue == PIRACY!!!

So, while I am with you on the "don't buy it or pirate it" boycott of DRM'd media, the corporations just won't get it.

"They're currently recruiting panelist" (3, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26356937)

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.

I would probably be happy (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357061)

with all this DRM sh1t if these companies massively reduced their over inflated prices (which they have always claimed was because of piracy) but it still costs fortune to buy anything even when it's DRM'd to death.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357319)

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 formality of even having a few legitimate games. the selection of the games was far larger than you'd find in a typical best-buy. The shopkeepers made no secret of the fact that the games were not legal.

The thing is, it's not like these are little independent software stores run from the back of a truck. these are large multi-million dollar national (ukrain's population is about 50 million) professional chains selling this stuff.

Furthermore, at $15 (the price for the 'full' versions), the games are at least as affordable to the average ukrainian gamer as the $45 equivalents are in the USA. the situation where ukraine (or malaysia, or china, or you name it) is some poor backwater where we might as well just tolerate this since the potential users have no money. i mean, you have to have a serious PC to play most of the modern games, and serious PC prices are pretty much the same everywhere.

i asked the shopkeepers about business software like MS-Office. These were under the counter, but still easily available. one shopkeeper complained to me that his PC game business was down as people were flocking to the web to download stuff. a cousin of mine showed how through the university network (i mean directly on university servers) of ukraine's best university, she had access to from what i can tell tens of terabytes of films, games, software, etc just right there. this is a girl who drives a car better than most of you probably did at her age (19, new toyota land cruiser).

So, while slashdot obsesses over the attempts of companies to protect their own material and the inevitable over-reaches that happen in that quest, you might, just might want to consider that piracy prevention is a noble and fair goal to make people pay their share. we should be supporting sensible attempts at stopping the process wherein american and western european consumers basically subsidize the entertainment for the rest of the world.

Re:Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357741)

...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.

Re:Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26357783)

that she has the money to pay for this stuff, obviously.

Protect Consumers (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26357885)

My ass.

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

Its how the 'system' works.

The Spore issue isn't just DRM, it's malware (2, Insightful)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358265)

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.

WGA? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358289)

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 (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358527)

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 recession or something.

As soon as comapnies like EA realise they will actually lose sales just by using DRM, DRM will go away. It seems Apple/I-Tunes got the message recently. Hopefully EA will be next.

DRM Is just a last gasp (2, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26358749)

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.

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