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The Open Rights Group (ORG) is developing a new paper to inform the music industry about the technical suitability of Digital Rights Management (DRM) as an aid to enforcing copyright.

The paper is conceived as a way to inform the current debates about DRM, to break a very technical subject area down into terms that the average music industry executive can understand. It aims to counter the perception of DRM as a magic bullet that will save the record industry from illegal copying.

The project, run by a loose collaboration of academics, computer scientists, and other interested parties, is still in its very early stages. But Becky Hogge, a spokeswoman for the organisation, said the work could lay the foundations for an eventual policy on DRM for the ORG.

She said: "This year there are two debates about DRM: firstly, how it works in current business models, with digital downloads increasing. Second, in terms of the Gowers Review and its recommendations on flexibility - personal use, archiving and so on.

"DRM is at the forefront of this debate because it really does stand in the way of that flexibility."

The ORG is not planning to address the economic questions thrown up by DRM, merely the technical question of whether or not DRM can offer reasonable access control.

Hogge is upfront about the group's starting position, saying she'd be very surpised if they managed to come up with a workable model for DRM. "DRM is not good for consumers, let alone being a good way of implementing copyright law."

A spokesman for The British Phonographic Industry said that it wasn't really for him to comment on the average music industry executive's understanding of the technicalities of DRM.

"I would say that DRM is a misunderstood beast," he said, arguing that it can be used for a variety of ways of accessing music, not just total lock down.

He added that the BPI itself didn't have any particular policy on DRM, other than to support its members' right to use it if they wanted to. "But we have over 450 members, and I think only four of them use it in any way. Many of the independent labels just don't care about it, which is, of course, their right."

The ORG reckons the paper should be ready in April. ®

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