fair but wrong, some thoughts about DRM from the British Library among others

British Library says that DRM makes it tough to do its job.

Libraries are allowed to give access to, copy and distribute items through “fair dealing” and “library privilege” clauses in copyright law.

But as publishers attempt to stop the public illegally sharing books and articles, the DRM they employ may not cater for libraries’ legal uses.

“We have genuinely tried to maintain that balance between the public interest and respecting rights holders,” Dr Clive Field, the British Library’s director of scholarships and collections told the BBC News website.

“We are genuinely concerned that technology inadvertently may be disturbing that balance, and that would be unhelpful ultimately to the national interest.”

Don’t stop with the BBC story, go read the entire Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance’s submission to the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group. A list of other responders is here (what a URL, huh?). Please make sure to notice who is covering the cost of providing the transcripts for these sessions…. and worry.

This wiki has more information on the people who submitted evidence to the hearing. I was going to email David Weinberger, whose name I noticed on the previous list, to see what he wrote about DRM but the wiki has links to his two articles “Copy Protection Is a Crime …against humanity. Society is based on bending the rules.” and, from that same wiki “Fair but Wrong

Of course artists should be paid for their work, but behind the “It’s only fair” plea is an assumption the fairness consists of an equal exchange of value. If you pay for leather shoes and the store gives you leather shoes, then the exchange was fair. If, you pay leather prices for plastic shoes, the exchange was unfair. So the advocates of fairness propose making just a few changes to the Internet – which actually amount to redoing its basic architecture – that will ensure that artists are paid for the value their work creates.

But, it’s important to remember that that’s not how it works in the real world. If you buy a book, you can read it twice without paying the author again. You can lend it to a friend. She can sell it to a used bookstore. You and others just keep getting more and more value from the book, but the original bookstore, the author and the publisher don’t see a penny of that. All of those uses fail the “It’s not fair!” argument.