Introduction
I would like to start writing about my reading experience making four general remarks: Eight authors from different disciplines and from different countries have provided the results of their "multi-disciplinary" discussions on consumer concerns with respect to DRM. One of the really interesting effects of the joint discussions is obviously that lingo has been filtered out and what remains is a good reading for a broader public.

Another characteristic of the report is its strong recourse to real-world examples of initiatives, products, and implementations. This grounding is a good remedy for high flying abstract discourses. I also liked the basic conceptual decisions to always use a pair of concepts in order to grasp the narrow perspective of actors and a broader one of social concerns, e.g. acceptance and acceptability are distinguished, the consumer appears as consumer and citizen, and in economics the business perspective is distinguished from a welfare perspective.

At the general level a fourth property of this INDICARE effort is worth mention, its character as a "living document". You should be aware that you have received just the first state of the art report, and that two updates will follow. This report, as all INDICARE deliverables, has the purpose of stimulating debate and INDICARE aims to be responsive to input and suggestions we receive. Therefore it depends to a certain extent on your feedback what the second and third state of the art reports will take on board.

Lessons learnt and new questions
The philologist Ivor A. Richards once said, "A book is a machine to think with", and I would hold that this is true for the present INDICARE report too. To give just a few examples:

1. The second chapter outlines the European Commission's initiatives on DRM and European research projects on DRM. This historical view, with a time horizon of c. 10 years, shows that the European Commission started early on to involve stakeholders, and also the issue of "acceptance" appears relatively early. In the field of research it is interesting to see a remarkable continuity in the research efforts with many projects building on former ones. Two questions came to my mind: first, I wonder why there is apparently a lack of political activities in this field from the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General. Secondly, with respect to the EU funded DRM research, I would like to raise the following question: Do we find the good research results implemented in real-world products available in the market? In other words, does the "European paradox" apply to DRM research too?

2. The third chapter about "consumer concerns" follows a convincing approach as it does not simply address the single average consumer, but tries to take into account also customers with disabilities and institutional customers such as libraries, science, and education. This makes sense, because this way more or less all groups are covered which have benefited so far from copyright limitations. This broader perspective including institutional customers smoothly leads to the more general question of public sector information (think of historical archives, museums, press archives, the collections of radio stations etc.). While we may be sceptical about DRMs in the private sphere, the need for content management systems in the field of public sector information seems to be rather obvious. In other words, the DRM debate should take into account both fields and investigate the specific pros and cons of DRMs in each area.

3. The fourth chapter about legal aspects creates awareness that a focus on Copyright and the European Copyright Directive is too narrow. Exaggerating, one might take a narrow focus on "Copyright" as the "McGuffin" of the debate. The debate about copyright limitations is important, but discussants should also turn to "access". The "age of access", to use this expression coined by Jeremy Rifkin, washing out "copyright" is the second front.

4. As the report (chapter four) demonstrates, consumers can hardly rely on the European Copyright Directive as a legal instrument to protect them. It seems as if consumer protection laws and data protection laws are closer to the heart of consumers and the question is, if a particular legal corpus is needed to cluster and specify user demands towards DRM-protected content.

5. The fifth chapter on technical aspects – explaining among others rights locker architectures, symmetric rights expression languages, superdistribution, privacy enhancing technologies, privacy rights management –, makes clear that what we see is rather the beginning. We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This leads to question the relation between technological developments and market development, and may also call for a technology foresight in the field of DRM-related technologies.

6. The sixth chapter about business aspects shows DRM as a kind of dual use technology: it can be used to lock up content or to unlock it. The chapter also puts into perspective DRM-based business models as just one path to generate revenues for digital content. Last not least the chapter brings to mind two paradoxes of DRM-protected content, which form a real challenge: a "productivity paradox", i.e. higher product costs/less value proposition, and a "hit-the-one-you-win-paradox", i.e. burden for legal users/illegal users out of reach.

7. A cross cutting issue are standards and interoperability. To describe the abundance of want-to-be-standards and standards initiatives is the first step. The state of the art report takes up the issue in different chapters which complement each other well. Evaluating the importance of standards however is a very different and difficult task going beyond the present report. On the one hand you have to see through statements which are often just lip service in favour of e.g. "open standards", "interoperability" and so on. On the other hand the complexity is hard to cope with as data formats, distribution channels, devices, media types, meta-data, application areas, types of clients, regions, power of players, patents, etc. have to be taken into account. This debate required needs to turn from descriptions and declarations of best intentions to strategic analysis – application area by application area.

The basis for all the questions I have raised is the state of the art report. In the best sense I hope to have shown that the report not only covers a lot, but is thought provoking too.

About this issue
The issue starts with the excellent analysis of Bill Rosenblatt of a mutual learning process between P2P networks and protected online-content. I hope we will see more of Bill's analysis in the INDICARE Monitor in 2005. Next you will find an INDICARE interview with André Beemsterboer, director of a Dutch Collecting Society. In this interview by Natali Helberger we learn about the future of Collecting Societies and the rather important role of DRMs within. The next topic "Mobile music in Japan" is a welcome complement to the Berlin Workshop on Mobile Music, which mainly looked at Europe. Find out, if Jan Michael Hess is right, who claims "Japan's reality is our future".

The next three contributions are dealing with technical issues. Ernö Jeges from SEARCH, our Hungarian partner, reviews a new approach to anti-piracy, which seems to work best with computer games, e.g. for illegal users of a game swords turn into pigs making fighting rather difficult – thus spoiling the party. The following interview with Leonardo Chiariglione is about the Digital Media Project and his intriguing vision of an interoperable DRM platform. In the conference report by Kristóf Kerényi from SEARCH about the Fourth ACM Workshop on Digital Rights Management cutting edge research in DRMs is presented. Kristóf, who was on tour in the US for INDICARE, has written a further report about the DRM strategies 2004 conference in Los Angeles. The issue closes with announcements of the two most recent INDICARE reports.

We wish you the very best for the holidays to come and the next year
the INDICARE team

Sources
  • Helberger et al. (2004): Helberger Natali (ed.); Dufft Nicole; Gompel, Stef; Kerényi, Kristóf; Krings, Bettina; Lambers, Rik; Orwat, Carsten; Riehm, Ulrich: Digital rights management and consumer acceptability. A multi-disciplinary discussion of consumer concerns and expectations. State-of-the-art report, Amsterdam, December 2004; http://www.indicare.org/soareport
  • INDICARE Team (2004): State-of-the-Art Report Released. Announcement; http://www.indicare.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=63
  • Richards, Ivor Armstrong. Principles of Literary Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2001

About the author: Knud Böhle is researcher at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at Research Centre Karlsruhe since 1986. Between October 2000 and April 2002 he was visiting scientist at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Seville (IPTS). He is specialised in Technology Assessment and Foresight of ICT and has led various projects. Currently he is the editor of the INDICARE Monitor. Contact: + 49 7247 822989, knud.boehle@itas.fzk.de

Status: first published in INDICARE Monitor Vol. 1, No 6/7, 17 December 2004; licensed under Creative Commons
URL: http://www.indicare.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=66