Study: DRM creates Pirates

Although the tendancy for big corporations to include DRM in all their products appears to be on the wane, there's still plenty of publishers who include it by default in their music, film and e-books

That may be fuelling a new generation of content pirates, if research from Cambridge University is to be believed. Law professor Patricia Akester spoke to university lecturers, end users, government officials, rightsholders, and DRM developers to find out exactly how it was affecting media usage.

She found that DRM introduces so many problems that even ordinary legitimate users of content can be turned to websites like the Pirate Bay to get what they need.

One example provided was that of the blind. The Royal National Institute of Blind People's Head of Accessibility, Richard Orme, told Akester that by law, people with sight problems have the right "to create accessible copies of works".

The way that's usually implemented is by using screen-reader software - which is blocked by e-book DRM. Lynn Holdsworth, an Amazon customer who bought an electronic copy of the Bible, was forced to turn to an illegal copy of the book, because neither Amazon or the Publisher could provide her with a version that worked with her screen-reader application.

Another example was that of film professors, who have a legal right to put together clip compilations under UK law, but aren't legally allowed to bypass DVD encryption.

They're forced to either change their lectures to suit VHS material available, which is rapidly becoming scarce, or turn to file-sharing networks where they can get anything they want, in accessible formats.

Rights-holders label these "Edge cases", and say they're not worth coding into DRM schemes. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's Executive Vice-President Global Legal Policy, Shira Perlmutter, told Akester:

"You are not going to get a one size fits all DRM that will deal both with the consumer and the special interests exceptions and, in any case, you do not want to give up a system that works for 99 percent of cases because there is a particular issue with a particular kind of user when you can let the system work and then deal with that user".

Peter Bright, of the British Library says that "for all the time and money spent on trying to protect optical discs, software workarounds are cheap, abundant and fairly reliable". Akester says that as a result, legitimate users are turning to piracy to get what they're legally entitled to.

Have you had issues with DRM in the past, while trying to accomplish something that you're legally allowed to do? Share your story with us in the comments.


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