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Parliament committee hears DRM rights and wrongs

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The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group met today to hear oral evidence to help it prepare a report into Digital Rights Management.

Chaired by MP Derek Wyatt, the packed meeting heard evidence from the Society for Computers and Law, the British Library, Open Rights Group, British Music Rights, AIM, the Publishers Association, and the Federation for Information Policy Research.

Wyatt thanked those giving evidence and said the committee had received 92 written submissions - a very large number. The group will produce a final report, and publish the evidence, in April.

Laurence Kaye and Gillian Cordall, of the Society for Computers and Law, told the committee that existing copyright was good enough, but consumers don’t have enough understanding of it. For instance, in the UK there is no right to make personal copies of CDs - although most consumers believe they do have that right. The law is different in mainland Europe, where consumers do have the right.

Next up, representatives from the British Library explained their concerns that DRM technology could stop future generations accessing material the library is obliged to store forever. They suggested either a trusted third party to hold information in an unencrypted form or for DRM to be removed once copyright has expired.

The Open Rights Group explained that the debate was not just about publishers and copyright holders, but increasingly about hardware and software manufacturers.

Professor Ross Anderson, chairman of the Federation for Information Policy, told the MPs: “There’s been a radical shift in power from the music majors to companies like Apple. A year ago they’d have been 110 per cent behind DRM.”

Anderson said Parliament needs to look at the issue more widely. He said we would soon see the technology spread from music to other areas like printer cartridges and eventually car parts. Anderson said it would be better to empower individuals to take court action against companies rather than expecting Parliament to legislate. ®

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