The All Party Parliamentary Internet
is an organization in the UK which "exists to provide a discussion
forum between new media industries and Parliamentarians for the mutual
benefit of both parties
." It is open to members of the House of
Commons and the House of Lords; its actual makeup (in terms of party
representation and such) is not entirely clear. This group decided to have
a hard look at the interaction of digital rights management (DRM) schemes
and copyright law. To that end, they received written input from dozens of
groups on all sides of the copyright dispute and listened to a large number
of interested people. The result of all this work is
[PDF] and a
series of recommendations
This group shows some signs of having actually understood the problem - or
parts of it, at least. A
reading of the full report is recommended for those who are interested in
the issue. For everybody else, here is a set of select quotes.
To start with, the group does not buy the notion that DRM schemes will
always be easily overcome.
In the future it must be expected that TPMs [technical protection
measures] will rely more and more
upon specialist hardware functionality and that some systems will
prove to be extremely complex to overcome and to develop generic
evasion technology for. It would therefore be unwise to base public
policy upon a continuation of the situation that TPMs are
relatively easy to overcome. It may well be that propping up
technical measures with legislation will become entirely
irrelevant. Equally, assuming that egregious problems caused by
TPMs can be addressed by just `breaking into the system' may become
unrealistic. (¶ 21).
So the "speed bump" view of DRM does not necessarily apply into the
Often, the discussion at the political level appears to have lost track of
what copyright is for. So it is somewhat refreshing that this group has
not forgotten entirely:
Copyright is generally understood to be a trade-off. The creator of
copyright material is given a monopoly on exploiting it for a
period of time. Currently for a new song or book this is until the
creator dies plus 70 years. At the end of this period, the created
work enters the public domain and may be exploited by anyone. This
scheme is intended to ensure that there are incentives for
creators, without creating an indefinite monopoly....
However, should all available versions of the material be protected
by highly effective TPM systems, it may prove impossible, when the
copyright expires, for the exploitation to occur because the
material will remain inaccessible except via the monopolistic TPM
system. (¶ 32-4).
The report goes on, however, to dismiss this concern by claiming that
"all available versions" of any given work are unlikely to go under DRM
anytime soon. The authors may find themselves surprised by the ambitions
of the entertainment industry.
At least some of the costs of DRM are understood:
From a completely different perspective, Intel told us that it was
important that the legal infrastructure does not inhibit technical
innovation and they feel that the `trade-off' should address
this as well! As an example, they pointed out that there were no
portable video jukeboxes on the market just devices capable of
video downloads or playing consumer recordings because it was
against the DVD consortium rules to create a portable device.
Alternative licenses from the Creative Commons and elsewhere are touched
Several of the rights-holders were rather negative about these
licenses, suggesting that the creators and performers did not
always understand what they were "giving away forever" and how it
could affect an artist's ability to enter into an exclusive license
at a later stage in their career. Although artists should naturally
consider these matters, we suspect that these licenses are clearer
than many media industry contracts. (¶ 71).
The report's authors seem to believe that the worst DRM-related problems
will be addressed in the market. But, they say, fully-informed consumers
will help to bring that about:
Because, as we have observed, consumers expect to copy CDs, we
believe that all CDs should in future come with a prominent label
saying, "you are not permitted to make any copies of this CD for
any reason"... The prominent label should add, when appropriate,
"and if you try to make a copy, you should note that we have tried
very hard to ensure that you will fail". Doubtless, even clearer
and more accurate wording is possible....
For some types of content the labelling will need to warn the user,
"you cannot access some parts of this DVD without a working
Internet connection to enable us to record your identity", or "your
playing of this song may be recorded in marketing databases in
foreign countries". (¶ 100-102).
There is also some discussion of what happens if a DRM-using vendor goes
out of business or changes policies. The potential loss of an individual's
media collection is raised, but the possibility that valuable material
could be lost to society as a whole is not.
There is little patience with DRM code which ignores users' commands, hides
itself, or endangers the host system:
[W]e recommend that OFCOM publish guidance to make it clear that
companies distributing TPM systems in the UK would, if they have
features such as those in Sony-BMG's MediaMax and XCP systems, run
a significant risk of being prosecuted for criminal actions.
The authors received input from a number of groups related to free
software, but the bulk of that input appears to have been boiled down to
about two sentences. The lack of free DVD players is mentioned, as is the
effect of governmental DRM mandates. The report claims, however, that no
DRM mandates are in view in Europe; evidently broadcast flags and
anti-circumvention laws don't count. In general, the needs of the free
software community were either not understood or not seen to be important.
So, in the end, the APIG report is not all that one might have hoped for.
Still, this document shows a higher level of understanding of the issues
than can be found in many other government venues. Let us hope that it is
a sign of progress in the right direction.
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