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Consumer Rights vs. Digital Rights

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is any method to protect the intellectual rights related to digital content. From the code wheels in old video games, to Sony’s infamous rootkit, to Apple’s FairPlay technology and even the End User License Agreements (EULAs) of various devices and software.

The biggest problem with DRM is that it doesn’t work. So far, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has prevented even a single song or program from being readily available if you looked hard enough for it. The only thing that DRM has succeeded in doing is to frustrate users of legally obtained products by making them jump through hoops to get their products to function correctly.

More recently, it’s been used in an almost dictatorial fashion on consumer devices such as the iPad and Playstation 3. Preventing users from modifying their devices or risk either having their devices made useless, altered back without their consent or face
a lawsuit
.

It is my opinion, that once a device is purchased, it should be mine to do what I like with, as long as it remains mine. On the other hand, the companies producing these devices make it very clear in their End User License Agreements (EULAs) that you do not have any such right.

In addition to frustration for the consumer, DRM also increases the cost of the product. Someone (or usually a team) has to create, implement, and update the DRM software. More overhead equates to a higher price tag. While it can be argued that piracy also increases the price, I would venture to guess that isn’t true. In all likelihood, if someone found the golden pinnacle of uncrackable DRM, the majority of people using pirated copies of software would simply go without. While a small percentage may pony up the
dough to buy a legitimate copy in that case, I doubt it would offset the cost of the development of the DRM.

So what’s the solution for a frustrated consumer? Use your wallet to speak for you. When shopping for a product, find out what their DRM policies are and buy accordingly. If everyone shopped this way, companies would get the point and quickly.

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