Thursday, January 19, 2006

NCC submission to APIG DRM Inquiry

The National Consumer Council submission to the All Party Internet Group inquiry into drm makes interesting reading. Summary:

"The National Consumer Council recognises the value of intellectual property rights (IPRs) as a reward to innovators and creators, but is concerned about the costs placed on consumers of enforcing these rights, and the use of the enforcement of IPRs to curtail legitimate consumer freedoms. The way Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology is being deployed is causing a number of serious problems for consumers. These include:

• Inability to play digital products on their equipment;
• Limitations on the number of copies they can make;
• Adverse impacts on the use and security of their equipment;
• Inadequate information to make informed purchase choices;
• Unfair contract terms; and
• Loss of privacy rights.

The NCC believes that consumers' rights can no longer be merely recognised informally, as this has allowed the adoption of Digital Rights Management tools to violate previously accepted arrangements in IP law and consumer rights under consumer protection and data protection law. Policy makers muct now carefully consider putting consumers' legitimate interests on a more robust legislative, and positive footing."

They go on to conclude:

"There are a number of serious problems with the deployment of Digital Rights Management in relation to the provision to consumers of digital products. Yet current EU and UK copyright legislation protects DRM by making avoidance ("circumvention") illegal.

The NCC accepts that there may be a serious problem with organised criminal infringements (counterfeited products), but the industries involved too often conflate criminal and consumer activites. Given the resources available to many criminal gangs, the ability of DRM to halt these activities is minimal. However, the use of DRM can and is already constraining legitimate consumer use of products and consumer rights under consumer protection and data protection law.

The development of DRM so far suggests that leaving it to industry self-regulation will conpromise and limit the legitimate rights of consumers. This means that it is insufficient for the regulation of DRM technologies merely to be concerned with their protection from circumvention. A more balance legislative framework is needed which provides explicit recognition of consumer rights and ensures that anit-circumvention protection is only provided to DRM systems that meet the required standards."

It's well worth reading the 10-page report in full. Well done to the authors - it's not common to see the case so clearly put.

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