March 7, 2006 | By Fred von Lohmann

USACM Position on DRM

The USACM (U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery) has recently issued a set of policy recommendations regarding DRM. They are sensible and make for good reading.

It's good to see an association made up of technical professionals take a stance on the DRM-related issues pending in Congress, including the broadcast flag, analog hole, digital radio flag and DMCA reform. When it comes to these issues, Congress could use more sensible advice from engineers, rather than Hollywood lobbyists.

Here are the USACM principles:

  • Competition: Public policy should enable a variety of DRM approaches and systems to emerge, should allow and facilitate competition among them, and should encourage interoperability among them. No proprietary DRM technology should be mandated for use in any medium.
  • Copyright Balance: Because lawful use (including fair use) of copyrighted works is in the public's best interest, a person wishing to make lawful use of copyrighted material should not be prevented from doing so. As such, DRM systems should be mechanisms for reinforcing existing legal constraints on behavior (arising from copyright law or by reasonable contract), not as mechanisms for creating new legal constraints. Appropriate technical and/or legal safeguards should be in place to preserve lawful uses in cases where DRM systems cannot distinguish lawful uses from infringing uses.
  • Consumer Protection: DRM should not be used to interfere with the rights of consumers. Neither should DRM technologies interfere with any technology or use of consumer systems that are unrelated to the copyrighted items being managed. Policymakers should actively monitor actual use of DRM and amend policies as necessary to protect these rights and interests.
  • Privacy and Consent: Public policy should ensure that DRM systems may collect, store, and redistribute private information about users only to the extent required for their proper operation, that they follow fair information practices, and that they are subject to informed consent by users.
  • Research and Public Discourse: DRM systems and policies should not interfere with legitimate research, with discourse about research results, or with other matters of public concern. Laws and regulations concerning DRM should contain explicit provisions to protect this principle.
  • Targeted Policies: Public policies meant to reinforce copyright should be limited to applications where copyright interests are actually at stake. Laws and regulations concerning DRM should have limited scope, applying only where there is a realistic risk of copyright infringement.

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