Stop DRM from becoming a "privacy nightmare"

Stop DRM from becoming a "privacy nightmare"

The news that iTunes will offer songs from the three of the largest labels free of copy protection software was music to the ears of many users. Privacy experts say it's a sign the industry is realizing how counter-productive digital rights management (DRM) limitations actually are.

But he says using technology (specifically digital locks) to address what is essentially a social challenge isn't the answer.

McOrmond suggests that to boost sales content providers need to get a better handle on customer needs and then match their services to meet those needs.

Instead they choose to prevent owners from controlling their personal communications devices - as essentially that's what DRM is all about, he said.

He said if people understood fully how DRM worked they would be even more strongly opposed to it, "if they have even the most basic respect for personal property rights."

The concern that DRM technology may seriously violate people's privacy rights was found to be very well founded by a study by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) in 2007.

It discovered content providers were using DRM to collect, use and disclose consumers' personal information for secondary purposes, without giving the user adequate notice or the opportunity to opt-out of collection.

The report was based on an investigation of DRM systems used in 16 different digital products and services including Apple's iTunes Music Store, Microsoft's Office Visio, and Symantec's Norton SystemWorks 2006.

Digital locks not the answer

While Canadian consumers aren't legally prohibited from unlocking digital media, there may involve contractual violations depending on the media, said Geist.

"The concern with Bill C-61 was that the government was going to make even the mere act of unlocking something that's been locked an act of infringement," he said.

(While Bill C-61 - that sought to amend Canada's Copyright Act - died on the table when the 39th Parliament was dissolved prematurely on September 7, 2008 - much of the content in that bill is likely be included in the new copyright bill expected to be introduced this year).

There's absolutely no need for DRM to provide legal protection, according to Geist.

He noted that copyrighted works by all content creators - individuals and companies - are protected whether or not they choose to use DRM.

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