Does Digital Rights Management Go Too Far?: Page 2

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Restrictions are needed

Panelist Jim Williams, senior vice president and chief technological officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, wondered whether DRM "is annoying people because they are trying to get something they didn't purchase and are trying to force a different use on it." If consumers simply abided by the restrictions put on content usage by its owners, then they wouldn't be irritated by DRM, he said.

The panelists all agreed that it is impossible to protect content and monetize it without controlling that content through some form of DRM. And if the content is not controlled, then "the next 'Crash' doesn't happen. The next 'Gandhi' doesn't' get made," said Susan Cleary, vice president and general counsel of the Independent Film and Television Alliance.

So DRM, the majority of panelists agreed, is actually a great thing for consumers.

"It's the reason why consumers have choices available to them. TV and movies are not just a commodity. The ability to distinguish one work from another work drives creativity. DRM gives consumers variety and the possibility of having a viewer experience for a couple of dollars, or if they're willing to watch some commercials they might get it for free. We can't just get rid of DRM and say we'll figure out, (the business model) later," said the MPAA's Williams.

The idea that technology has cultivated bad consumer habits was also raised.

Enablers of piracy?

"What if the people who designed TIVO had made it so you couldn't skip over commercials? Consumers would have then had the expectation that they'd have to watch them," Sony's Galuten said.

The point that consumers have never felt compelled to watch commercials even in the days before TIVO, was not voiced by any of the panelists, who went on to discuss ways of stopping wide scale unauthorized commercial distribution of copyrighted content by using tracing DVD/CD replication equipment and watermarking so that the distribution chain can be tracked.

Internet Service Providers were also mentioned as enablers of piracy.

"When they started (selling broadband), piracy was their killer app," said panelist Paul Jessop, a consultant with the Recording Industry of America. "They sold connections on the idea that you could download anything you wanted. Now it's hurting them. It's costing them a lot of money. If bandwidth is being used for piracy, the ISPs have to pay for it."

Cleary singled out Spain as an offender, saying the country provides "a safe harbor for ISPs, and the ISPs won't do anything (about illegal downloads). Spain wants to build its network, and it doesn't want to tell ISPS they have to turn off business to 40 percent of their traffic. They don't have the incentive to clamp down."

France, whose government has been working to pass a "Three Strikes" law -- get caught downloading copyrighted content illegally three times, and you lose your internet connection, was cited as an example for other countries to emulate.

"It's a good law," said Cleary.

The European Parliament disagrees, however. On Wednesday parliament members voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment that prevents member states from implementing three-strike laws, saying it restricts the rights and freedoms of Internet users.

"Obviously ISPs have an interest in making sure their bandwidth is properly used," said Oxman. "The only cautionary note I would sound is that we don't want to put ISPs in the business of examining what we're all downloading. We also want to make sure we don't deter consumers from buying broadband connections. It's a slippery slope. We don't want to turn ISPs into cops."

The entertainment industry is evidently downplaying the idea of persuading users through education that illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted content is bad,

"You tell consumers about the impact of piracy and they just go off to Limewire and download whatever they want anyway," said Sony's Galuten.

The panel wound down with Oxman saying that content-producing companies should "stop viewing the Internet as a threat. I think a lot of the discussion today has been describing it as a threat."

Panelists agreed -- the Internet provides big opportunities for content creators and distributors, said Cleary.

"We love the Internet," added the MPAA's Williams.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.

Tags: Windows, Google, Microsoft, DRM, Vista

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