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APIG Releases Their Report on DRM - It Will Surprise You
Monday, June 05 2006 @ 02:24 PM EDT

The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) in the UK has just released its report [PDF] on its study of DRM. The purpose of the study was to figure out to what degree protection is needed for both copyright holders and consumers. I think you'll be surprised at their conclusions. So will Sony and imitators. One recommendation is this:
A recommendation that OFCOM publish guidance to make it clear that companies distributing Technical Protection Measures 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.

That's refreshing, don't you think?

For earlier coverage of the study, if you are new to the story, see this article and this one.

From the APIG web site, all the key points of the report in executive summary are:

* A recommendation that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) bring forward appropriate labelling regulations so that it will become crystal clear to consumers what they will and will not be able to do with digital content that they purchase.

* A recommendation that OFCOM publish guidance to make it clear that companies distributing Technical Protection Measures 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.

* A recommendation that the Department of Trade and Industry investigate the single-market issues that were raised during the Inquiry, with a view to addressing the issue at the European level.

* A recommendation that the government do not legislate to make DRM systems mandatory.

* A recommendation that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport review the level of funding for pilot projects that address access to eBooks by those with visual disabilities and that action is taken if they are failing to achieve positive results.

* A recommendation that the Department of Trade and Industry revisit the results of their review into their moribund “IP Advisory Committee” and reconstitute it as several more focused forums. One of these should be a “UK Stakeholders Group” to be chaired by the British Library.

* A recommendation that the Government consider granting a much wider-ranging exemption to the anti-circumvention measures in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act for genuine academic research.

* A recommendation that having taken advice from the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport hold a formal public consultation, not only on the technical details, but also on the general principles that have been established.

I note from the study itself this point:

36. Another way of looking at the trade-offs inherent in the copyright legislation is that in return for a general monopoly, some specific exemptions must be granted. These include the fair dealing exemption, the special privileges libraries enjoy, and the rights to make otherwise infringing copies to permit the disabled to access the work.

Surprised to see a discussion of DRM and fair dealing in the same sentence? Me, too. But fair use, in the US, and fair dealing, in the UK, are part of copyright law, just as much as the prohibitions on what folks can do with copyrighted works, and if we are going to be scrupulous about the law, let's be scrupulous about it in its entirety, by all means. That is a fundamental issue with current DRM schemes, that they enforce terms that go beyond what is legally the copyright holders' legal right to enforce.

That's the point Suw Charman, executive director of the Open Rights Group, made to the BBC reporter:

For instance, she said, UK law allows people to make copies of parts of copyrighted works for the purposes of critiquing or reviewing them.

"That's an exemption thwarted by DRM systems," she said. "The technologies are extending beyond the law they are supposed to uphold."

Amen. It's good to see it discussed, so a proper balance can be found before we start seeing widespread litigation over this issue, which otherwise I am sure we will.


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