Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lang on proposed French DRM law

Bernard Lang, a prominent French computer scientist, has been in touch with Ed Felten about the much-discussed legislative developments in France.

"One interesting fact is that this article 7 did not have most of these clauses when first voted during the debate. Then, on the last day (night ?) of the debate, after the last article, they reopened the debate on article 7 and voted the current version at 3h00 am. This was not a complete surprise, since it was known that several majority MPs were negotiating with the government.

Article 7 of the law (I am losing some technical legal subtleties in the translation, for lack of knowledge of legal vocabulary) actually creates a new article in the French Intellectual Property Code...

This text does not say that TPM must be open standards, but they they should be essentially like open standards, as long as they are not covered by patents … and we are not supposed to have software patents at this time, in Europe...

I have been supporting for some time the view that DMCA-like legislation was actually attempting to create a new intellectual property right, a “DRM right”, that gives exclusive rights to the initial users of a DRM format to develop software interacting with it. Of course, no one, to my knowledge, would actually acknowledge the fact. [This is similar to what Peter Jaszi and others have called “paracopyright” in the U.S. — Ed]

Interestingly, one purpose of this new IP right is to prey on cultural creation and creators by controlling the distribution channels, while pretending to offer what seems to be mostly an illusion of protection.

The limitations of the French law just restrict technical measures to be what they are supposed to be: a protective device (for whatever it is worth), without giving any control to people other than the (rightful ?) rightowners of the work.

Without interoperability as required in the French law, DRMs (or TPMs if you prefer) behave pretty much like patents on formats and distribution models, without even requiring innovation, nor official application and examination, and without a time limit or compulsory licensing...

I remember that, while some partners and I were being auditioned by government officials, their faces expressed surprise that we worried that artists should be able to publish their work, possibly protect their work, freely and without having to submit to the technology leveraged market control of a few large companies. My feeling was that no one else had expressed that concern before."

Highly recommended and includes Lang's translation of the controversial clause 7 requiring drm to be interoperable.

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