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December 02, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

APIG DRM Inquiry: Overview

The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) has launched a public inquiry into DRM and is looking for written evidence from anyone interested in copyright and digital rights management. Submissions must be emailed to APIG before 21 December 2005, which gives us, and you, less than a month to prepare and submit our statements.

From the APIG press release:

DRM is used to describe a number of technologies that can be incorporated into electronic devices to control the use of digital media. DRM is usually thought of as "copy protection" for music, films and video games, but can have much wider application, allowing computer software to be rented, or providing assurance that only authorised programs are executed on a particular computer.

The policy debate around DRM is often cast on the one hand as to how music publishers and movie moguls can prevent revenue loss from illegal duplication. On the other hand, consumers may lose existing rights to freely enjoy what they have purchased and to pass it on to others when they have finished with it.

However, to portray the issues surrounding DRM as merely a consumer versus publisher debate is misleading. DRM permits the creation of new business models where you buy the right to read a book just once, or pay a fraction of penny every time you play a song. This allows publishers greatly flexibility in the services they offer and leads to increased consumer choice.

At ORG, we are already working on a submission and we would like your input. APIG have defined eight particular areas that they wish to focus on:

  1. Whether DRM distorts traditional tradeoffs in copyright law;
  2. Whether new types of content sharing license (such as Creative Commons or Copyleft) need legislation changes to be effective;
  3. How copyright deposit libraries should deal with DRM issues;
  4. How consumers should be protected when DRM systems are discontinued;
  5. To what extent DRM systems should be forced to make exceptions for the partially sighted and people with other disabilities;
  6. What legal protections DRM systems should have from those who wish to circumvent them;
  7. Whether DRM systems can have unintended consequences on computer functionality;
  8. The role of the UK Parliament in influencing the global agenda for this type of technical issue.
Each area has its own blog post so that you can make your views known and debate each point in the comments. We've asked a couple of related questions, but feel free to write about any aspect of these points that you think is relevant. This public debate will then help us to develop and refine the ORG paper best reflection of our supporter's concerns regarding DRM.

You might also like to send your evidence directly to APIG, and we would strongly encourage you to do so. APIG have provided these guidelines for submission:

  • Written evidence should be submitted to admin@apig.org.uk, in electronic format (plain text (ASCII), Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word .DOC or .RTF format).
  • Keep your submission concise, (about 1,000 words), and focus on the specific points raised above, particularly the issues in which you have a special interest.
  • Essential statistics or further details can be added as appendices.
  • Submissions should be dated and include your name, address and telephone number.
  • It is at the inquiry's discretion to publish any evidence it receives. Any information that a witness would not wish to be considered for publication should be clearly marked.
  • You may be invited to give oral evidence in Westminster in January 2006.
According to Silicon.com, APIG is interested in everyone's views:
From now until 21 December Apig is asking anyone with an opinion on DRM and related issues - including companies, industry organisations, academics and individuals - to submit their concerns in writing.

An Apig spokesperson emphasised that all voices will be heard. "A 16-year-old's opinion on DRM is as welcome as Microsoft's," he told silicon.com.

He added that the group is "sympathetic to commercial considerations" but will keep an open mind during the process as the aim is to come up with a balanced report that represents all viewpoints on the issue and that will help parliament in creating informed policies.

The written evidence will be assessed by an as-yet unnamed academic and certain respondents will be asked to give further oral evidence to MPs. All this will be included in a final report, which is due out "earlier rather than later" next year, according to the APIG spokesman.

Apig is particularly interested in the effects of DRM on copyright law, how it affects consumers and whether changes to current legislation are necessary.

This is a very important debate to have and a valuable opportunity to challenge widely held assumptions about the role of intellectual property in our society, the absurd way in which the IP industries are pushing towards criminalisation of copyright infringement, and the dominance of the business point of view over that of pretty much everyone else.

It's also an opportunity to push back against the industry lobbyists who will undoubtedly have teams of lawyers and marketers crafting their own submissions. We must take this chance to make ourselves heard and argue the case for freedom from DRM.

Further reading that APIG thinks you might be interested in: Current UK Law on Copyright, summary page Current EU Law on Copyright & Neighbouring Rights, summary page "IPRED2" the proposed 2nd "Intellectual Property" Rights Enforcement Directive {SEC(2005)848 (PDF)

Further reading that ORG thinks you might be interested in: Grocklaw: UK Publishers Asked for DRM Thoughts & I Offer Some - For Free! Grocklaw: RIAA President on Sony's Rootkit: So What? Everybody Protects CDs Revision of the Computer Misuse Act, an APIG report (PDF) Cory Doctorow: Microsoft Research DRM talk

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Comments (5)

  1. John Kelso:
    Dec 06, 2005 at 08:44 AM

    Interesting story about DRM provider SunnComm

    http://p2pnet.net/story/7201

  2. Simon Gibbs:
    Dec 06, 2005 at 07:48 PM

    Off-topic? Not sure, I'll let the Group decide:

    John Kell, political researcher from the Professional Contractors Group, uttered:

    "One thing that we know will be announced in the PBR this afternoon is a review of intellectual property in the UK. There's no particular reason to think that this will do anything like introduce software patents in UK law, but we will make a submission to argue against it anyway, just to be sure."

    and linked here:

    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/gowers_review_intellectual_property/gowersreview_index.cfm

  3. Simon Gibbs:
    Dec 06, 2005 at 07:50 PM

    Pleasantly surprised to see the above was sucessfully posted using Firefox 1.5. Thanks for fixing that.

  4. john:
    Dec 07, 2005 at 11:01 AM

    So has ORG started a submission? Perhaps some sort of Wiki / collaborative writing page that people can contribute and edit versions of written submissions would be a good idea? Anyway, classic civil servant trick to ask for input at the Christmas period so no fucker can submit anything or knows anything about it! 21st December is a crap time frame to be able to submit anything by...

  5. Kevin Marks:
    Dec 21, 2005 at 12:33 PM

    In order to address the APIG questions on DRM, I need to state some principles.

    Firstly, the Church-Turing thesis, one of the basic tenets of Computer Science, which states that any general purpose computing device can solve the same problems as any other. The practical consequences of this are key - it means that a computer can emulate any other computer, so a program has no way of knowing what it is really running on. This is not theory, but something we all use every day, whether it is Java virtual machines, or Pentium's emulating older CPU's for software compatibility.

    How does this apply to DRM? It means that any protection can be removed. For a concrete example, consider MAME - the Multi Arcade Machine Emulator - which will run almost any video game from the last 30 years. It's hard to imagine a more complete DRM solution than custom hardware with a coin slot on the front, yet in MAME you just have to press the 5 key to tell it you have paid.

    The second principle is the core one of jurisprudence - that due process is a requirement before punishment. I know the Prime Minister has defended devolving summary justice to police constables, but the DRM proponents want to devolve it to computers. The fine details of copyright law have been debated and redefined for centuries, yet the DRM advocates assert that the same computers you wouldn't trust to check your grammar can somehow substitute for the entire legal system in determining and enforcing copyright law.

    Each computers' immanent ability to become any kind of machine and the copying of data that happens as part of this, leads the DRM advocates naturally to the point where they want to outlaw computers, or to take them over by stealth, using virus-like techniques.

    The reductio ad absurdum of this is to privilege DRM implementers in law above the owners of the computers on which their software runs, without their effective consent. Sadly, this is exactly what is being demanded by the publishers' lobby.



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