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BBC News’ Click debates DRM

March 22, 2007

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BBC News’ technology programme Click has dedicated last week’s show to Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Click’s presenter Spencer Kelly spoke to Richard Gooch, from the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI), who is for DRM, and Becky Hogge, director of the Open Rights Group, openly against DRM technology.

Here’s some excerpts from “Digital lock’s rights and wrongs”, Spencer Kelly’s own review on the subject, the debate, and the battle.

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In the 80s, according to record companies, home taping was killing music. Fast forward some 20 years and the devices we use to listen to music may have changed, but the recording industry is still claiming that the illegal copying of their product harms future production.

When a piece of music is purchased you might assume you can listen to it in on any number of different devices: at home, in the car or on a portable music player. But, in the UK at least, you would be wrong.

“You can’t copy any form of music or film without the copyright owner’s consent,” explained copyright lawyer Hamish Porter. “So if you buy a CD from a record shop, even copying that CD onto your iPod is unlawful unless you have the copyright owner’s consent.”

The problem, some believe, is that the music labels have made these contracts pretty restrictive by using something called Digital Rights Management (DRM).

“The problem that we really face at the moment is unfettered filesharing, free copying of MP3s,” explained Richard Gooch from the International Federation of Phonographic Industry which represents all the major record labels.

“MP3 is fine, but what is not fine is taking artists’ work and then swapping it with a large number of people over the internet for free.”

DRM is the solution, the music industry says.

But Simon Wheeler, the Director of Digital Beggars Banquet Records, disagrees.

“DRM can allow copyright holders to protect their intellectual property but considering that over 90% of the music sold in the music market today is on a non-DRM format called the CD, then that’s not necessarily an answer.”

David Roundtree, the drummer with Blur, also has misgivings: “I think the fundamental problem with it is that it doesn’t work. If it did work we would be having a rather different conversation.

“It’s best summed up by the old computer security maxim: whatever you can do in software, you can undo in software. In the case of music, whatever complicated system you have in place, the music has to come out of two wires that you have plugged into a loud speaker.

“I can just as easily plug those into a recording device as a loud speaker, so the whole concept is fundamentally flawed.”

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