ECA boss Hal Halpin thinks that while content creators absolutely have the right to protect their creations, "draconian" DRM only alienates consumers.
Hal Halpin and the ECA have their hands busy with the videogame case headed to the US Supreme Court, but that doesn't mean they don't have other issues on their plate. While speaking with us about "Schwarzenegger vs. EMA," Halpin discussed another pressing issue his organization faced: The DRM argument.
While Halpin believed that the argument was commonly portrayed in terms of absolutes - a saintly world where nobody pirates, and a world where everybody pirates to avoid cruel DRM - whereas it was important to just see it in terms of shades of gray. "We get that publishers and developers need to protect their intellectual property, but we also believe that part of that gray area might be just to disclose the fact that there is DRM in the software before you buy it. Put it on the box," said Halpin.
That was just one suggestion the ECA had made to publishers in order to make DRM less painful and easier to understand for the average consumer - but yet, things have only gotten worse, said Halpin. "[Things] seem to have gotten worse rather than better. [In September 2008], we got into it with Electronic Arts over Spore and its DRM and in this Spring we saw all kinds of new ways of tying games and gameplay and gamers."
"We're coming to a crossroads where all of the console products are going to be distributed in the same way that PC games are. If that is the case, we're going to start seeing the rights shift as well ... [then] you've lost significantly. You've lost not only rights in the process, but in the value proposition itself. You've also lost the rights to resell, to give it to other friends the way you would with another consumer electronic thing."
Though there will always be inherent opposition between buyer and seller in any transaction, says Halpin, it "behooves the industry to embrace their consumers" as well as any business can. Even if it's foolish to think that there can be one perfect solution that will either eliminate DRM or eliminate piracy, the goal should be simply to find a middle ground that makes it easier for everyone. "I think that [the ECA] is here at an opportune time because we can prove that we can be supportive of the industry, and at the same time show them that the middle ground to rights issues - that doesn't solve the entire problem, but makes things better, makes things easier ... I can't imagine they would see it as anything but good."
At the bottom line, said Halpin, DRM "is not a solution ... the alternative would be for them to go the more draconian route, and not consider any of the things we're suggesting and do the opposite, and find out for themselves how consumers would react to having all their rights stripped away."
"Yes, these are corporations and the people who work for them, the majority of them are gamers. They are there to make sure that the company is making as much money as it can. But you don't want to do that to the degree that it alienates your consumer base. So, common sense should prevail. Hopefully."
We can certainly hope so.
Read more of our interview with Hal Halpin here.