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Consumer group calls for anti-DRM laws

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A UK-based consumer rights group has called for MPs to introduce new laws to ensure consumers' rights to use digital content are protected. The use of digital rights management technology on CDs, DVDs and music downloads to control or restrict the use of copyrighted digital works shows that the current regime of self-regulation is failing to protect consumers' rights, according to the National Consumer Council (NCC).

In a submission to an All Party Internet Group (APIG) inquiry into the subject, the NCC highlights the controversial use of rootkit-style DRM technology by Sony/BMG in arguing that industry can't be trusted to act alone. The NCC reckons DRM constrains the legitimate consumer use of digital content, for example, by preventing consumers from playing DVDs they’ve bought abroad or in making compilations of material they have purchased for their own use. These restrictions undermine consumers' existing rights under consumer protection and data protection laws.

Jill Johnstone, director of policy at NCC, said: “Because of the current situation, consumers face security risks to their equipment, limitations on their use of products, poor information when purchasing products and unfair contract terms.

"While we recognise the value of intellectual property rights, we have little confidence in self-regulation by the industry. We welcome this opportunity to present our concerns to MPs and hope this will ultimately lead to an improvement in the rights of consumers."

The All Party Internet Group announced an inquiry into Digital Rights Management last November. The probe will look at issues including the degree of protection needed for both copyright holders and consumers. The APIG plans to hold a series of public meetings taking evidence on the subject at an as yet unannounced date. ®

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