Digital Content & Public Policies : a wave of initiatives and public consultations emerging

Several government led initiatives on digital content are appearing around the world. Has the time come to rethink creatively a few things or are we looking at some form of semi-coordinated effort trying to prepare us for the enactment of new laws in this area?

The UK government released today its interim report Digital Britain unveiling 22 recommendations and a road map towards a final report due this summer. On Digital Content, the interim report presents 4 actions on the economics (action 10) and on the rights and distribution (actions 11 to 13), arguing for :

  • alternative funding models to advertising revenues,
  • a Rights Agency in charge of enabling technical copyright-support solutions that work for both consumers and content creators “Digital Rights Management (DRM), properly applied“,
  • education and information of consumers on fair and appropriate use of copyrighted material,
  • fighting unlawful P2P file-sharing having ISPs monitor users’ Internet traffic, warning them in case of infringement and revealing the information to rights-holders based on a court order.

A TED like summit is planed for April and in the meantime, interested parties are invited to join the discussion by sending their expressions of interest to : digitalbritain@berr.gsi.gov.uk before March 12, 2009.

The US FTC is organizing a DRM conference on March 25, 2009 in Seattle at the University of Washington Law School. Topics to be covered include basic introductory issues, legal, consumer issues and future trends. They are also inviting interested parties to submit comments and suggestions for topics by email to : drmtownhall@ftc.gov by February 9, 2009.

Oddly enough, it feels like states and governments around the world have all of a sudden realized that we have entered in the 21 century, that we live in a global networked economy and society where trade and services are now dematerialized and involve intangible assets. Paradoxically recent initiatives are starting to drop DRM (Apple iTunes Plus, just for music though).

All this may not be contradictory after all. Highly commoditized goods such as music nowadays may go DRM free provided there is some form of higher authority overlooking and requiring that the ISPs monitor user traffic to detect unlawful P2P file-sharing. The story might be slightly different with video premium content in the short term.

At the end of the day, we are likely to still have DRM and gain a global surveillance from our ISPs of our every packets flowing in and out of our homes, forced by law. So wouldn’t we want to get that DRM “thing” right ? Now would be the time to do it before we get into another fight about our civil liberties and privacy rights.

Lets go “green” (Green DRM), before we all go dark !

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