Global “Day Against DRM” protests copy protection

On the opposite side of recent statements by NBC Universal chairman Robert Wright denouncing software and media piracy, protesters against DRM (digital rights management) took to the streets last week in an effort to protect fair-use rights for consumers in the digital era.

Designated a “Day Against DRM,” the theme of the global protest was that corporate-imposed DRM is robbing consumers of their rights under current laws. Groups handed out leaflets in American and European cities, including Boston; Zurich, Switzerland; Paris; and London. A similar awareness campaign was launched on the Internet.

DRM is a device used to restrict the copying of music, movies and other digital media, which is purchased legally by consumers. The protesters referred to it as “Digital Restrictions Management.”

Defective By Design, a group associated with the Free Software Foundation, organized the protests. In addition to violating consumer rights, the group said DRM was also a threat to the open-source software movement, and could be used to control and track consumer viewing habits of the new HD-DVD formats.

One prominent target of the protests was Apple Computer’s iTunes, a music download service that sells copy-protected songs that play only on Apple’s iPod music players.

According to the executive director of the Free Software Foundation Peter Brown, the protests are not focused primarily on Apple, but focused more on the company because it popularizes that DRM is acceptable. The protesters argued against any use of DRM by the entertainment industry.

Supporting the concerns of the protesters, the British Library said last week that it found that of 30 licensing agreements recently offered to the library for use of digital material, 28 were more restrictive than the rights existing under current copyright law. The concern is that, if unchecked, this trend will drastically reduce public access, thus significantly undermining the strength and vitality of our creative and educational sectors, Chief Executive Lynne Brindley said in a statement.