Tuesday, January 20, 2015

DRM Is Not A Binary Decision

Consumer rights with respect of ebooks continue to be up in the air.
Only last week, Sony, the prime driver for Adobe’s ACS4 adoption back in 2006 said that they were coming back into the Digital Rights Management (DRM) market.
This week the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced they have commissioned the vocal DRM opponent, Cory Doctorow, to take on DRM technologies that they believe threaten security, privacy, and undermine public rights and innovation. The objective of their Apollo 1201 Project, is claimed to be "a mission to eradicate DRM in our lifetime."
Named after the US Apollo space prograame which took some 10 years to achieve what on its creation was viewed by many as an impossible mission.
What is certain is that the DRM that today inhibits consumers ability to transfer files between the various ‘walled gardens’, is going to either change radically, or be unilaterally be removed. It is hard to envisage what we have today as being sustainable over the next decade. The EFF mission goes past ebooks and is aimed at games, apps, video and all cases when DRM inhibits interoperability.
EFF raise the issue of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which outlaws the circumvention of copy controls. They agrue, ‘That ban was meant to deter illegal copying of software, but many companies have misused the law to chill competition, free speech, and fair use. Software is in all kinds of devices, from cars to coffee-makers to alarm clocks. If that software is locked down by DRM, tinkering, repairing, and re-using those devices can lead to legal risk.’
However as we have argued many times DRM is not and should not be a binary decision, where DRM is either on or off. We should look hard at the whole issue not just one element and we look at opportunities as well as threats.
One issue that must be addressed is provenance of ownership. In ebook terms look at this as an’ex libris’ stamp that can be traced back to the sale. It doesn’t have to be invisible and it may be open to abuse but if validated could revolutionise the ownership versus licence position and enable the first sale doctrine and resale of ebooks. This may be apporant to many in the trade but if watermarking soft DRM is not adopted then this door shuts whilst the stable door of DRM is potentially flung wide open. Some would say a very stupid situation.
The resale of ebooks is currently being fought out in the Dutch courts where Tom Kabinet is being challenged by the Dutch trade. Tom Kabinet which to resell ebooks and offer a service similar to ReDigi is try to establish in the music market. The court has instructed Tom Kabinet to close temporarily as not all titles can be proven to have full provenance of ownership. So the courts may take a different position if such a position could be established. The door is half open to the trade to create an opportunity, or to blindly slam shut and rejoice in potentially a false victory.

Judith Mariën, a Tom Kabinet’s founder, said that she believes that despite the court verdict, it is ‘good news’ in that the court ruled that the site’s basic business model is essentially legal.

What is important that the trade start to think consumer, think service, think and avoid closed doctrine and protectionism for the sake of protectionism.

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