Launch of the APIG report on DRM

Last year, the Open Rights Group submitted evidence to the All Party Internet Group‘s public inquiry into digital rights management (DRM) after carrying out it’s own public consultation into questions raised by the call for evidence. In February this year, ORG gave oral evidence to the APIG inquiry, giving a concise statement regarding ORG’s position and answering questions from Derek Wyatt MP, Ian Taylor MP and the Earl of Erroll.

This morning, at an event organised by the IPPR and hosted by the British Library, APIG launched their report. The 30 page report can be downloaded as a PDF from APIG’s website. For those of you with a shorter attention span, here is the official report summary as provided by APIG’s secretariat.

The inquiry’s key recommendations: 1. 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.

Thinking behind the recommendation:

There was considerable consensus on the principle that consumers should be aware of what they are purchasing.

Not surprisingly, the consumers were in favour, but other respondents were as well. For example, EMI told us “consumers should be aware of the precise terms of the package of rights they have paid for by proper labelling or other explanation” and Intel said “consumer notice requirements in connection with content protection and DRM are not only appropriate, but will in fact help drive both the deployment of new business models and consumer acceptance of content protection and DRMs generally”. In the long run, ‘media literacy’ will ensure that consumers understand what they are purchasing and what they might reasonably expect to be able to do with digital content. In the meantime, the evidence we received suggests that extensive labelling is essential.

2. A recommendation that the OFT labelling regulations we propose, should ensure that the risks are clearly spelled out, at the point of purchase, whenever consumers could lose access to digital content if systems are discontinued, or devices fail, or players are replaced by systems from a different manufacturer.

Thinking behind the recommendation:

One of the issues that we asked respondents to comment upon was that of Technical Protection Measure systems being discontinued. Although this will seldom cause a work to disappear altogether, it can have significant impact on individual consumers who find themselves with content that they can no longer enjoy. Even where the manufacturer stays in business, there is still an issue of being ‘locked in’ to particular technologies, even if other offerings are more attractive or less expensive. As an example, once someone has purchased a great deal of protected music for an iPod then if their next player is not manufactured by Apple then this music could become inaccessible to them. There are currently practical (albeit, not necessary lawful) ways of addressing this problem for iPods, but this may not be true for all formats.

3. 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.

Thinking behind the recommendation:

Shortly before our inquiry was announced it was revealed that Sony-BMG had shipped millions of CDs in the United States with two extremely problematic copy-protection systems