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Archive for July, 2007

The problem with people

July 30, 2007 Leave a comment

In my previous post on DRM stakeholders, it quickly became obvious from your comments that the consumer stakeholder group is indeed a problematic one for the simple reason that everyone is a consumer of content and therefore liable to be affected by DRM at an individual level. I often wonder if this could be key to the whole problem. Are the technologists, content business owners and lawyers too far removed from their other life as content consumers?

It would certainly explain why the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has stepped up its campaign against illegal music downloads by targeting Universities and Colleges – the natural breeding ground of content pirates it would seem. According to an article on Slashdot, the RIAA has added another 23 US colleges to its list of institutions that have had their students hit with so called pre-litigation settlement letters. These letters effectively present a choice, to the student, of either paying a preset amount of three thousand dollars ($3000) or ending up in court for copyright infringement.

The above scenario seems to lend further support to the feeling that the industry may have lost the plot altogether, especially as these actions do not appear to have stemmed the tide of online file-sharing or indeed the woes of the recording industry as a whole. Also the use of such hot-dog tactics may not have the implied bite because two well respected Harvard University Law professors have already challenged the RIAA to over the same issue and surprise, surprise, Harvard did not make the hit list. Unfortunately this level of response is not available to everyone –which is a shame really, as it may well come down to that if things are allowed to continue along these lines.

My overall position is that each individual or stakeholder group must start to appreciate the viewpoint of the others. As individuals, people may find it easier to ignore or suppress their conscience over illegal downloads of copyright material (using all manner of arguments), but when placed in the role of the creative, commercial, governance stakeholder, they may actually get to see the others point of view, instead of just lumping them together as ‘the big bad greedy establishment-industrial complex’, or what have you.

However this cuts both ways, and the onus is really on the other stakeholders to proactively engage the end-user/consumer in creating any new products, services, rules, laws and business models that deal with digital content. The topmost question for content businesses should be along the lines of: how does each product or service compete with ‘free’ content? Also the governance stakeholders, including IP lawyers and industry bodies (e.g. RIAA), should ask: how will this action stop criminalising the consumer? And so on. Easier said than done, I know, but necessary nonetheless in my opinion.

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Note – Original post, including comments, can be found at: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/72

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Categories: BCS, DRM Tags: ,

I shot the Sheriff – of Open Source DRM

July 26, 2007 Leave a comment

Open Source DRM…. Now who said that? Seriously, can there really be such a thing, when it is so patently obvious that DRM is ultimately an economic tool? To hope for such a thing would surely be a futile fantasy, or is it?

Recent developments in the open source world, such as the release of the GNU Public License (GPL) version 3 by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), have more or less drawn the lines in the sand.

A DRM Watch article, by DRM guru Bill Rosenblatt, basically spells out the implications for DRM and open source – i.e. you can cook it, but it won’t taste good. The main point of contention is linked to the licensing of DRM software by developers. While GPL v3 does not prevent ‘open source’ licensing for DRM, it does make it less appealing for DRM vendors to adopt; and in fact the FSF’s release statement clearly states this as follows:

‘GPL version 3 does not restrict the features of a program; in particular, it does not prohibit DRM. However, it prohibits the use of tivoization and Treacherous Computing to stop users from changing the software. Thus, they are free to remove whatever features they may dislike’.


Also Ken Fisher’s article on Arstechnica explores the question of whether interoperable DRM is less secure, and suggests that ‘closed’ systems are not necessarily more secure than ‘open’ or licensed and interoperable systems.

Which way to go? I’d like to get your comments on the Open versus Proprietary DRM debate – which one will be the better option in the long run? Also who do you think will benefit the most from either?

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Note – Original post, including comments, can be found at: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/63

Categories: BCS, DRM Tags: ,

And the beat goes on…

July 25, 2007 Leave a comment

Comments have started to trickle in on my rather provocative debut post about wanting my DRM, and thanks to those that read and responded to it. Also fellow blogger David Evans seems to have opened a can of worms with a post about the BBC iPlayer and open source DRM. You can’t deny it DRM is a real pain in the proverbial donkey. But why is it so, and who stands to gain the most from it?

Lets face it so many people are against DRM these days that I thought it would be fun to play devils advocate and actually take a slightly different approach to it. The key thing with DRM is that it is all about who benefits the most as I’ll try and explain below.

DRM occupies only a very narrow niche in the extended media universe; however this is located at a crucial intersection of several worlds which include: content creation, technology, commerce, governance and consumers. These make up the five groups of stakeholder interests that I constantly refer to in my forthcoming book, and in several articles, on DRM. Essentially these stakeholder groups break down as follows:

Digital Content Stakeholder Groups:

  1. Creative: Includes all primary content creators (e.g. authors, songwriters, filmmakers etc)
  2. Technology: Includes all device makers, software and hardware manufacturers etc
  3. Commercial: Includes all businesses that are primarily focused on selling creative content
  4. Governance: Includes, lawmakers, legislators, governments and lawyers
  5. Consumer: All consumers and users of creative content in any way shape or form.

*Brainteaser: Some of these stakeholder overlap (i.e. individual members may belong to more than one group e.g. a content creator may also own a publisher). Can you spot which group overlaps with all the others, and why?

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Note: Original post, including comments, can be found at: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/61

Categories: BCS, DRM Tags: ,

I Want My DRM!

July 20, 2007 Leave a comment

Hah – that will be the day I hear you sniff with righteous contempt. But the truth is that some people do actually want that eventuality, and I’m not talking about old school music industry types, or their lawyers and political lobbyists. Instead I refer to the true visionaries and economic realists who may have only just begun to glimpse the true potential of our digital future. Welcome to the DRM Blog.

DRM, or Digital Rights Management, means different things to different people, most of which are contentious. However, looking beyond the current application of DRM to the future role of rights management technology in the digital content universe requires a pretty powerful telescope. The trick is to penetrate the fog of hype and misconception that surround this emotive topic and try to understand the real issues at the heart of content, and its legal use, in the rapidly evolving digital world.

This blog will comment on the many developments and issues surrounding digital content and DRM, and how they impact society at large; it will also explore the unique perspectives of the major stakeholder groups, and perhaps help indicate the way forward to the digital content economy of tomorrow. In any case, your comments will be most welcome, as it will help shape the overall position and direction taken by this blog, and I look forward to receiving it.

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Note: This post originally published at: http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/47 

Categories: BCS, DRM Tags: ,