Thursday, December 09, 2004

INDICARE Report: DRM & Consumer Acceptability

INDICARE has released its State of the Art report today: Digital Rights Management and Consumer Acceptability (PDF, 147 pages). As the subtitle states, it is a multi-disciplinary discussion of consumer concerns and expectations. I took part in that discussion and wrote the legal chapter of the report. There's also a social, technical and business chapter. A press release will follow next week.

What makes this report interesting is that it deals with consumer concerns, and not so much the concerns of the industry, the users of DRM. The position of the consumer, the end-user, has for long been neglected in official reporting at the European level. For example, it is fair to say that the current High Level Group on DRM is industry driven and not very much concerned with the concerns of consumers. Unless profitable, one might add.

This report looks at DRMs from a different angle, the consumer's, though it tries to be neutral in its reporting. It lines out the restrictions with which consumers may be confronted, and to what extent DRMs might have the potential to become acceptable them. The legal chapter I wrote notes, amongst others, that the European Copyright Directive is a rightsholders centered legislation and the anti-circumvention provision overshadows the copyright exemption provision (e.g. private use, quotation, scholary use). Consequently consumers may have to fall back on consumer protection law to secure their interests in expected private uses, privacy, compatibility, transparency, fair contracts a.o.. European Consumer Protection law, however, proves to be a fragmented field and it is often unclear to what extent certain provisions may apply to the use of DRMs. "Clarity towards the applicability of provisions is important for the consumer to determine his legal standing and secure his interests. The future discussion around DRM should therefore pay greater attention to consumer protection law."

This is put a bit bluntly, and some may ask more blunt questions in return: "Will DRMs work in the first place?" And "Aren't DRMs evil?" I can't give any answers, at least we didn't research it in the report. And the report is no 147 page roller coaster ride, but it does give a look through the eyes of the (European) consumer at Digital Rights Management, finally.

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