The Digital Media Project  
Source L. Chiariglione
Title Comments on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's  Press Release No. 051102chiariglione01


Comments on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Press Release

Note: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a Press Release on the FP6 NAVSHP DRM Requirements document. Purpose of this document is to comment on that Press Release. Text in italic are taken from the EFF Press Release. Text in normal are my comments.

European Report Threatens Consumers' Rights EFF Urges Fresh Inquiry Into Ramifications of DRM

One may agree or disagree with information. It should never be a threat.

LONDON - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has criticized a European Commission group for assuming that digital rights management (DRM) is the only way to foster development of the home audiovisual market.

This is a funny way of describing the situation. Something like telling a group of bird watchers that they should go on a photo safari. This "European Commission group" (which it is not, because it is a group within a European Commission-funded project) has (or used to have, because its job is done) the task of harmonising other CEC-funded projects working on DRM issues.

In comments filed last week, EFF European Affairs Coordinator Cory Doctorow took the Networked Audiovisual Systems and Home Platforms (NAVSHP) group to task for its report on developing a harmonized system of DRM requirements.

This is again a funny way of describing the work of the group (which, incidentally, is not the Networked Audiovisual Systems and Home Platform group, because NAVSHP itself is not a group but a priority in the 6th Framework Programme). The group is not working on a "report on developing a harmonized system of DRM requirements". It is (actually it was, because the work has been completed) working on a DRM Requirements document.

Doctorow urged NAVSHP to explore approaches grounded in empirical research, not industry mythology.

As an engineer by education and a researcher as a profession, when I am confronted with a technology I study what the technology can do (so-called requirements). Then if the study is successful I move to the next stage, Labeling DRM as "industrial mythology" is the kind of a priori stance comparable to the opposition that Columbus had to his project of "going West". Research is about making inquiries into the nature of things. Labeling things a priori is obscurantism.

"DRM is already widely deployed without a hint of success and the NAVSHP group has the opportunity to learn from its well-known failures," said Doctorow.

This is a sensible comment. One should always learn from failures. But failures of what?

"NAVSHP should take a new look into how DRM affects the public, artists, and industry." So far, DRM has failed to reduce unauthorized copying or enrich content authors and performers, and instead has curtailed competition and sacrificed user-rights for the benefit of entertainment giants.

This is exactly what the NAVSHP (FP6) Requirements Report has tried to achieve. If DRM was already being used satisfactorily, there was no reason for the group to write requirements.

A fresh inquiry could examine why otherwise law-abiding citizens have resorted to finding unrestricted material on peer-to-peer networks and look at technological systems that might encourage new artistic works and new business models. "The EU and the world are experiencing a revolution in creativity thanks to the Internet," said Doctorow. "An entire generation of remixers, talented amateurs, and Creative Commons enthusiasts have created works that do not require DRM to thrive.

Exactly. the point is that Doctorow has his own definition of DRM, suitably designed to exclude the great examples that he mentions from DRM. The group has instead adopted a non-sectarian approach to DRM where "management of content" is separated from "protection of content".

NAVSHP should produce recommendations for systems that embrace unrestricted distribution methods in support of these new Internet-native business models. These European creators deserve every bit as much attention from the EU as do American film studios and other incumbents."

This is exactly what the group has tried to achieve, to provide a solution to both groups (actually to more than these groups).

For the full critique submitted to NAVSHP:

Too bad that Doctorow elected not to come to the meeting where the DRM Requirements document was finalised.