p2p news / p2pnet: Consumers should be told exactly what they can and can’t do with songs and films they buy online, say MPs in the UK.
In Digital Rights Management, the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group says labels on digital content should spell out how easy it is to move from gadget to gadget, according to the BBC.
"A public inquiry organised by the MPs sought views on copy protection technologies, known as Digital Rights Management (DRM), from industry groups, consumers and media makers earlier this year," it says.
"DRM systems are becoming increasingly popular as the makers of music and movies, as well as operators of online stores, try to limit piracy of copyrighted works through home computers."
The BBC doesn’t point out that anything which can be seen or heard can be copied by one means or another, marketing statements to the contrary, by companies which DRM applications, notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, "The MPs’ report made several recommendations and called on the Office of Fair Trading hasten the introduction of labelling regulations that would let people know what they can do with music and movies they buy online or offline," says the story.
"This would ensure that it was "crystal clear" to consumers what freedom they have to use the content they are purchasing and what would happen if they do something outlawed by the protection system."
“Outlawed” by the protection system?
Yes. And, "The same labelling systems would also spell out what happened in the event of a maker of DRM technology going bust, if a protection system became obsolete or if gadgets to play the content are replaced," the BBC goes on, adding, in a reference to the Sony BMG rootkit spyware fiasco, "The report also called for the makers of DRM systems to be made aware of the consequences of using aggressive copy protection systems."
The report roundly condemns SONY BMG, stating:
Shortly before our inquiry was announced it was revealed that Sony-BMG had shipped millions of CDs in the United States with two extremely problematic copy-protection systems. One system, called MediaMax, installed itself even if a user refused permission and hid its device driver from standard tools. The other, XCP, contained what was rather loosely called a “rootkit” – it was merely a method of hiding programs so that they did not appear in directory listings (as used by actual rootkits that permit unauthorised access). Besides their copy protection roles, both systems contacted a website whenever the user inserted a protected disc – a gross intrusion of privacy.
When the systems became public knowledge Sony-BMG initially denied there were any problems. Then they released a flawed un-install system (that compromised the security of those who ran it) and they eventually settled out of court in the face of a number of class-action lawsuits.
Our respondents – consumers and rights holders alike – were universally unimpressed by this saga, using words such as ‘debacle’, ‘blunder’, ‘arrogance’ and ‘shambles’. A number suggested that such systems were very likely to infringe UK legislation, possibly even being a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 or the Data Protection Act 1998.
We are equally shocked that a reputable company could mislead purchasers in this blatant manner by ignoring a user’s request not to install; altering operating systems without permission so as to hide their programs; and surreptitiously collecting personal data. However, we do note that the US legal system was able to deliver a reasonable (and rapid) resolution of the problem.
Nevertheless, it is possible that similar cases will arise in the future as they have in the past (UK-CDR reminded us of the 2002 Celion Dion CD that could not be ejected from iMac machines). To try and prevent this, we recommend that OFCOM publish guidance to make it clear that companies distributing TPM systems in the UK would, if they have features such as those in Sony-BMG’s MediaMax and XCP systems, run a significant risk of being prosecuted for criminal actions.
The BBC has Suw Charman, executive director of the Open Rights Group, saying the MPs could have gone further to combat the ways that copy protection systems impinge on rights to use copyrighted material protected by law.
"For instance, she said, UK law allows people to make copies of parts of copyrighted works for the purposes of critiquing or reviewing them," says the BBC. ‘That’s an exemption thwarted by DRM systems, she said. The technologies are extending beyond the law they are supposed to uphold"
Charman said increasingly, consumers were bumping up against DRM technologies as they use digital media such as downloaded songs and that DRM was, "less about protecting copyright and more about creating a system in which people rent rather than own the media they spend money on," says the story, adding, ‘We think people rightly feel that once they buy something, it stays bought,’ she said."
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BBC – MPs in digital downloads warning, June 4, 2006
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