Empirical Assessment of Impact of DRM on Exceptions and Limitations by Patricia Akester

MAY 7, 2009

Patricia Akester, a colleague of mine in the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law has just published the results of her recent research in the form of a 208 page report entitled Technological accommodation of conflicts between freedom of expression and DRM: the first empirical assessment.

There has been a lot of debate as to whether DRM/TPM can be used to go ‘beyond copyright’ and restrict legitimate uses of copyrighted material but little empirical work. Patricia’s work is therefore very valuable in providing the first systematic empirical data that we can use to assess what is going on. Here I’ll let her conclusions speak for herself but I strongly encourage readers to take a look at the study itself via the above link:

[From p. 99-100] This project looked at the impact of DRM on the ability of users to take advantage of certain exceptions to copyright. Based on a series of interviews with key organisations and individuals, involved in the use of copyright material and the development and deployment of DRM, this study examined how these issues are working out in practice. While the nightmarish vision of digital lock up has not materialised, this survey concluded, nevertheless , that significant problems do exist, and others can readily be foreseen:

  1. Although DRM has not impacted on many acts permitted by law, certain permitted acts are being adversely affected by the use of DRM;
  2. This is in spite of the existence of technological solutions (enabling partitioning and authentication of users. to accommodate those permitted acts (privileged exceptions.;
  3. Beneficiaries of privileged exceptions who have been prevented from carrying out those permitted acts (because of the employment of DRM. have not used the complaints mechanism set out in UK law;
  4. Article 6(4. of the Information Society Directive put an onus on content owners to accommodate privileged exceptions voluntarily. Voluntary measures have emerged in the publishing field, but not all content owners are ready to act unless they are told to do so by regulatory authorities.

These four conclusions will be explained in more detail and this will be followed by proposed solutions and recommendations.