DRM causing difficulties for libraries

The British Library's Chief Executive, Lynne Brindley, is warning that DRM systems are creating unintended consequences that affect how digital material can be stored and disseminated by libraries, which have traditionally been protected by special exceptions under IP law.

Speaking at the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) into Digital Rights Management, the British Library's Chief Executive, Lynne Brindley urged MPs to balance the rights of content creators with the need to maintain access in the public good.

"Digital material generally comes with a contract, and these contracts are nearly always more restrictive than existing copyright law and frequently prevent copying, archiving, and access by the visually impaired", said Brindley.

She gave the example that in a small sample of 30 licences offered to the library, only two publishers were as generous in terms of access as statutory fair dealing. Only two allowed archiving of the material, and not one permitted sopying of the whole work by the visually impaired.

If action isn't taken to clarify policy on DRM, it could have far reaching effects for institutions like the British Library who have traditionally held archival copies of material. For example, as one digital archiving method becomes extinct, DRM could prevent the library from transferring material to another, newer media for preservation.

The national library is recommending that IP law should clarify that fair dealing applies to digital as well as print items.