In its submission this week to an MPs’ inquiry into Digital Rights Management (DRM), the influential National Consumer Council (NCC) spelt out its concern at current self-regulation, and called for new laws to ensure consumers’ rights to use digital content are protected.
DRM technology is increasingly being used in products such as CDs, DVDs and music downloads to control or restrict the use of copyrighted digital works. As the recent Sony/BMG case illustrates, this is proving problematic for consumers. It was recently discovered that the ‘anti-piracy’ software included by Sony/BMG on a CD by country rock group Van Zant, included ‘cloaked’ files that installed a proprietary player to play the CD. The user was then unable to uninstall the player.
People are finding they can’t play the DVDs they’ve bought abroad or make compilations of material that they have purchased for their own use. The NCC believes that the use of DRM can and is already constraining the legitimate consumer use of digital content. It is also undermining consumers existing rights under consumer protection and data protection laws.
The NCC’s document says, “Intellectual property law needs to find a fair balance between protection and competition – too much or too little IP protection will lead to a loss of economic welfare. In recent years it has become clear to us that this balance is not being achieved.”
Jill Johnstone, Director of Policy at NCC said; “Because of the current situation, consumers face security risks to their equipment, limitations on their use of products, poor information when purchasing products and unfair contract terms.
“Whilst we recognise the value of intellectual property rights, we have little confidence in self-regulation by the industry. We welcome this opportunity to present our concerns to MPs and hope that this will ultimately lead to an improvement the rights of consumers.”