Tech-Savvy MPs Come Out Against DRM

The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group today launched the report of their inquiry into Digital Rights Management.

ORG is pleased to see the APIG making such a robust and sensible set of recommendations, many of which coincide with ORG’s recommendations to the inquiry.

APIG points out tht DRM can have a range of damaging effects, impacting on free trade, distorting markets, discriminating against the disabled and against open source products.

We are particularly pleased to see that APIG has taken note of the Sony-BMG, MediaMax and XCP debacle, and will be asking OFCOM to ensure that companies understand that any Technical Protection Measures they employ must not damage users’ computers. The virus-like software used by Sony-BMG would be illegal in the UK, and companies need to understand that they risk being prosecuted if they flout legislation designed to protect consumers from malicious software.

We are also pleased to see APIG recommend that academics be granted exemption from prosecution for research into anti-circumvention measures. It is essential for both consumer protection and for technological advancement that academics be able to examine in detail the anti-circumvention measures created by industry without fear of prosecution.

The recommendation that the British Library should chair a “UK Stakeholders Group” to advise the Department of Trade and Industry on IP and specifically DRM, is also warmly welcomed by ORG. For too long the DRM debate in the UK has been dominated by what the APIG term “the usual suspects” – major rights holders and the content distribution industries – who can afford to pay professional lobbyists to promote their views.

ORG feel that the recommendations could have gone further. The report addresses to specific exemptions to copyright: access for the visually impaired and the supply of material to deposit libraries. ORG sees no reason why the law should protect DRM technology that prevents all users from exercising their fair dealing rights such as limited copying for non-commercial research or private study, or copying for criticism or review. The UK should follow other European countries, such as Slovakia, that allow citizens to break DRM locks that block these rights.

ORG also feels that APIG have missed an opportunity to look more closely at interoperability and open standards for digital content and the hardware that content is played on. Currently, the report recommends that the Office of Fair Trading should use labelling to make the public aware whenever they are buying digital content that could be lost if ‘systems are discontinued, or devices fail, or players are replaced by systems from a different manufacturer’. However, a more effective solution to this problem is to mandate interoperability between systems, so that, for example, iTunes Music Store music could be played on any MP3 player. At the very least APIG should have recommended that more research be done into this, as France is doing in its EUCD implementation.

Read coverage of the report – and what Open Rights Group has to say about it – on the BBC website.