The Costs of DRM

OCTOBER 16, 2005

I was looking through The Political Economy of Intellectual Property Treaties. 2004. Suzanne Scotchmer. Journal of Law, Economics and Organizations 20:415-437. curtesy of the PDF available on her web page when I came to the following section which I wished to copy and paste into my notes:

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2002) reports that in 2000, only 56% of R&D spending in the European Union was by industry. The industrial share is higher in the United States, about 68%, still a considerable departure from 100%. In Latin America, public sponsorship[ tends to be dominant. In 1996, industry funded only 40% of R&D in Brazil, 28% in Argentina, and less than 20% in Chile, Costa Rico and Mexico (National Science Foundation, 2000)

But guess what: an attempt to copy results in the following message: 'Without the proper password, you do not have permission to copy portions of this document. Would you like to enter a password for the document?'. Here in the flesh we have an example of DRM impeding fair-use and scholarship. In all, timing myself, I estimate it took me around 30-60 secs to transcribe the quote and undoubtedly it will be of lesser quality (checking for typos/spell-checking would increase the time). Okay so this is a real annoyance but what is this costing society?

Estimating my time at around £10 per hour this transcription equates to 10-17 pence. Cost of copy and paste would have been around quarter of this (allowing for tidying of PDF text) meaning DRM has just cost me between 8 and 12 pence. This may sound trifling but suppose I read 4 papers a week and want to extract 2 quotes each from them. My quote above is probably average in length (perhaps even a little on the short side since very simple stuff I often paraphrase) so taking this cost as average we have 52 * 4 * 2 * 0.10 ~ £40. Multiply this by the number of researchers, and we are starting to talk about a serious cost if such DRM became widespread.