Singleton Offers 8 Lessons for Policymakers when Considering Media Content
WASHINGTON D.C. - The history of console and personal computer games contradicts claims that protected content is less desirable to consumers, explains Solveig Singleton in “Copy Protections and Games: Lessons for DRM Debates and Development,” a Progress on Point released today by The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Through her analysis, the author highlights multiple business models in the electronic gaming industry -- including some with closed platforms and heavy copy protection -- that co-exist and thrive in a competitive market. Policymakers should look carefully at these lessons learned from the gaming industry when debating technological protection measures.
Singleton offers eight insights for policymakers:
- Content producers do respond to consumer complaints resulting from copy protection.
- Interoperability with general purpose media increases piracy risk, while hardware-linked protection proving the most durable protection.
- Evolution in platform and distribution technology requires rapid adaptation of content protection.
- Technical limitations of past media and platforms that made copying cumbersome meant less need for copy protection, meaning new solutions for copy protection must be found as media and platforms evolve.
- Investment flows to business models with less perceived risk of piracy.
- Effective copy protection enables content producers to supply a rental market.
- Consumer demands often do not coincide with advocate demands, as consumers frequently choose content quality over lack of content protection measures.
- Past expectations should not dictate policy or future business models for content. Because gaming has not had to address preexisting consumer expectations, it has had flexibility in crafting technological protection measures.
The history of copy protection in the electronic gaming industry reveals multiple business models with a variety of content protection measures. Personal computer games, intended to interoperate with general purpose media, were especially susceptible to piracy after Internet use became widespread alternate revenue models such as those that require players to subscribe to become members of online multiplayer communities help compensate for copying. In contrast, console games are better protected from piracy by ties to specific hardware. The lack of interoperability requirements allows game and hardware creators to tailor their merchandise to the game player, broadening the products’ appeal. Stronger protection against piracy also allows content producers to tolerate the creation of a rental game market
Singleton urges policymakers to closely consider lessons from the gaming market when considering the current debate with digital rights management involving other content industries. She concludes, “The best policy going forward is for legislators to leave entrepreneurs’ experiments with DRM alone, while continuing to support copyright with appropriate enforcement institutions and actions.” The different business models created in such and environment, she explains, allow for consumer choice and flexibility in competitive markets. Singleton's paper, "Copy Protection and Games: Lessons for DRM Debates and Development," is available on the PFF website.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.