Abstract

Copyright industries are hoping that digital rights management (DRM) technologies will prevent infringement of commercially valuable digital content, such as music and movies. These industries have already persuaded legislatures to adopt broad anti-circumvention rules to protect DRM from being hacked, and courts have interpreted these statutes even more broadly than legislators intended.

Copyright industries now want DRM to be mandated in all digital media devices, either through standard-setting processes or through legislation. Though mandates for ubiquitous DRM are unlikely to be legislated soon, the threat of DRM mandates should be taken seriously. Computing professionals should be aware that private standardsetting processes may result in even less protection of consumer and other public interests than legislation which in the past has included at least some consumer protection rules. Some legislators who recognize that DRM and overbroad anti-circumvention rules interfere with legitimate interests of consumers have proposed legislation to safeguard these interests.

If computing professionals want to contribute to more balanced intellectual property policy, they should do two things: First, they should collectively articulate the positive social benefits of general purpose technologies to counteract proposed DRM mandates. Second, they should strongly support consumer protection legislation for DRM-protected content, such as warning labels, and proposed reforms of anticircumvention rules.

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