The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning media vendors to be clearer when disclosing the use of digital rights management (DRM) software to customers.
FTC deputy director Mary Engle told vendors at an event in Washington DC that they must do a better job of informing users just what measures are being used to prevent illegal copying and distribution of content.
"The availability and increasing sophistication of DRM has enabled content owners to provide consumers with an avalanche of choices regarding how, from whom, for how long and in what form consumers access or purchase digital content and how much they pay for it," she said.
"With this avalanche of choices comes the need to provide clear and effective disclosures of the terms of the bargain."
Engle warned that vendors that do not clearly disclose the copyright protections being used could face action from the FTC. She cited the infamous Sony rootkit case as an example.
After it was discovered that Sony had been illegally using rootkit software to control copying and distribution, the company was forced to provide clear notification on every CD of the DRM software in use and pay damages.
Engle said that vendors should use similar notification with their content, whether it be distributed physically or online. Burying the notification in an end-user licensing agreement (EULA) is not good enough.
"It's not enough to disclose the information only in the fine print of a lengthy online user agreement," said Engle. "In other words, if you are advertising giveth and your EULA taketh away, don't be surprised if the FTC comes calling."
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