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