Home > BCS, DRM > The problem with people

The problem with people

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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