fair but wrong, some thoughts about DRM from the British Library among others

British Library says that DRM makes it tough to do its job.

Libraries are allowed to give access to, copy and distribute items through “fair dealing” and “library privilege” clauses in copyright law.

But as publishers attempt to stop the public illegally sharing books and articles, the DRM they employ may not cater for libraries’ legal uses.

“We have genuinely tried to maintain that balance between the public interest and respecting rights holders,” Dr Clive Field, the British Library’s director of scholarships and collections told the BBC News website.

“We are genuinely concerned that technology inadvertently may be disturbing that balance, and that would be unhelpful ultimately to the national interest.”

Don’t stop with the BBC story, go read the entire Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance’s submission to the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group. A list of other responders is here (what a URL, huh?). Please make sure to notice who is covering the cost of providing the transcripts for these sessions…. and worry.

This wiki has more information on the people who submitted evidence to the hearing. I was going to email David Weinberger, whose name I noticed on the previous list, to see what he wrote about DRM but the wiki has links to his two articles “Copy Protection Is a Crime …against humanity. Society is based on bending the rules.” and, from that same wiki “Fair but Wrong

Of course artists should be paid for their work, but behind the “It’s only fair” plea is an assumption the fairness consists of an equal exchange of value. If you pay for leather shoes and the store gives you leather shoes, then the exchange was fair. If, you pay leather prices for plastic shoes, the exchange was unfair. So the advocates of fairness propose making just a few changes to the Internet – which actually amount to redoing its basic architecture – that will ensure that artists are paid for the value their work creates.

But, it’s important to remember that that’s not how it works in the real world. If you buy a book, you can read it twice without paying the author again. You can lend it to a friend. She can sell it to a used bookstore. You and others just keep getting more and more value from the book, but the original bookstore, the author and the publisher don’t see a penny of that. All of those uses fail the “It’s not fair!” argument.

5 comments for “fair but wrong, some thoughts about DRM from the British Library among others

  1. 04Feb06 at 2:03

    Okay, Jessamyn, I’ll bite: what are we supposed to worry about?

    It is the private sector firms you love to bash that are driving the advances in IT that are moving our profession forward.

  2. 04Feb06 at 3:20

    It’s the fact that people who have a dog in the fight, a big dog, are offering services gratis in a project to collate and disseminate open commenting about the future of digital rights management in the UK. This has nothing to do with “bashing” it’s just about following the money.

    Consumers have very little to gain from digital rights management and yet we concede that for businesses to continue to stay in business, some limitations on digital copying may be in order. Then the big question is “How MUCH limitation?” Business want a lot, consumers want very little, especially if it interferes with product usability, which it does in almost all cases.

    I don’t consider DRM an “advance” in IT.

  3. 04Feb06 at 4:43

    They’re paying to disseminate information to the public? The nerve!

  4. 07Feb06 at 5:57

    Thanks to DRM’s wonderful advances in technology, I’m home sick and am unable to listen to my $200 worth of Itunes music. According to Apple’s DRM, I’m only allowed to listen to my music on three “authenticated” computers (my work machine, my boyfriend’s laptop, the computer downstairs). I’m upstairs. Sure would be nice if I could listen to the music I paid for. But that would be stealing, wouldn’t it? **LISTENS TO FURNACE**

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