February 20, 2007 1:03 PM PST

U.K. government rejects calls for DRM ban

The U.K. government has rejected a call for digital rights management to be banned in the U.K., but has acknowledged that the technology could undermine consumer rights.

A total of 1,414 people signed an online petition calling for digital rights management (DRM)--which places restrictions on how people can use media such as software or music--to be outlawed. The petition, hosted on the U.K. government's e-petitions Web site, warned that DRM removes the freedom of choice between competing products offered for digital download or on CDs.

The petition, created by blogger Neil Holmes, also cited an investigation into DRM last year by the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group, an independent Parliamentary organization. The group demanded safeguards for consumers against invasive technologies such as the rootkit-like program used by Sony on some music CDs in 2005.

The government published its response to the petition on Monday and claimed that DRM could bring value to consumers.

"DRM does not only act as a policeman through technical protection measures, it also enables content companies to offer the consumer unprecedented choice in terms of how they consume content, and the corresponding price they wish to pay," said the government, in its response.

"It is clear though that the needs and rights of consumers must also be carefully safeguarded. It is reasonable for consumers to be informed what is actually being offered for sale, for example, and how and where the purchaser will be able to use the product, and any restrictions applied," the government added.

The DRM debate in the U.K. coincides with arguments against use of the technology from another sector--Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who earlier this month advocated licensing music without DRM. Jobs contends that eliminating DRM will encourage interoperability between music services and boost sales of downloadable recordings.

Sony's use of rootkit-like technology on its music CDs caused a storm of protest. The DRM technology was secretly installed and hid itself from the operating systems on people's PCs when they played Sony CDs on their computers. Users complained that this violated their rights to full disclosure about the products they bought from Sony, whose problems escalated after virus writers used the technology to hide malicious software.

In the U.K., the Open Rights Group campaigns against technologies such as DRM, which it believes can undermine the rights of users.

Becky Hogge, executive director at the Open Rights Group, believes that public awareness of the issues surrounding DRM is growing. "DRM had been seen in the past as a niche technology issue, but there is now rising consumer awareness about it," she told ZDNet UK.

Hogge added that some DRM technologies put restrictions on users that run counter to their rights under U.K. copyright law. For example, a blanket ban on copying prevents an individual from taking a sample for review or illustrative purposes, as they are allowed to under the "fair use" provisions within copyright law.

"DRM attempts to enforce copyright, but it does it badly," Hogge said.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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5 comments

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DRM protects against stealing
This is a non-issue. DRM is a tool to protect against those who STEAL content.


Nice try on the consumers' rights - but if you steal it, you're in the wrong.
Posted by mwendy (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DRM protects nothing
For starters copyright infringement is not the same as stealing, not that I am advocating it.

Secondly, the only thing DRM does is keep honest people honest and treat them like criminals.

The sooner content industries learn that DRM is damaging them far more then pirating operations, that can easily circumvent it anyway, the better.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Actually, DRM... itself... IS a form of THEFT.
The sad FACT is that...

"DRMs" primary function has actually been proven to be the elimination of, most, INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY OWNERSHIP RIGHTS. "Fair Use" is the LEGALLY-RECOGNIZED expression of those "rights".

However, the IMPOSITION of external CONTROL and LIMITING LEGAL-USE, and "transfer", after purchase, IS a direct, intentional, ABUSE of these most fundamental "rights" of private-property ownership.

Furthermore, even the "media industry" has, flat-out, admitted that "DRM" DOES NOT stop "piracy"... PERIOD. So, any claims to the contrary is, quite literally, an intentional LIE.

But, I will agree that, "...if you steal it, you're in the wrong"

Unfortunately, in this case, it is "DRM" and the companies that use it, which are the REAL THIEVES.
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Link Flag
Money trumps all
England is no different.

"DRM does not only act as a policeman through technical protection measures, it also enables content companies to offer the consumer unprecedented choice in terms of how they consume content, and the corresponding price they wish to pay"

Too bad it only polices honest people and restricts their rights under fair use, it does not give a choice. In fact it limits choice. From making backups to what media player you can use. DRM is all about control, not choice.

The government is obviously saying exactly what the content industry is telling them to. It has no basis in reality.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DRM punishes the wrong people.
"DRM is a tool to protect against those who STEAL content."

Nice strawman.

If you take a look at P2P networks you will find that DRM has very little to no impact. It is a minor speedbump at best.

The result is rather peculiar. Those who 'STEAL' get their DRM-free content from P2P while those that actually pay (you know, those customers that you actually want to encourage to continue buying your stuff?) get slapped with the DRM-encumbered product.

"but if you steal it, you're in the wrong."

Agreed. Or rather, those who create should have the right to benefit from their work. However, filesharing isn't going to go away. DRM won't stop filesharing. Calling for more DRM is equivalent to lowering the value of the legal product, which unfortunately makes filesharing a more compelling alternative.

If you want to get paid you need to find ways to make your product more compelling, not less.
Posted by fcekuahd (244 comments )
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