El.pub Analytic Issue Number 10
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The uncertain legal situation of IP
Expanding digital content - growing IP problems
Content ownership versus content consumption
Are current fears realistic?
Researching the market not the technology
CMS and knowledge management
CMS users and personalisation
Requirements for managing knowledge
Directions for CMS RTD
References and further recent information
Comment on this issue of Analytic
The growth of digital content has upset the status quo. Copying is now easy and very cheap for PC owners. Distribution has been made easy through the growth of the Internet. IP owners want to exploit these changes for their own profit, but fear that consumers will end up destroying the revenue stream.
At present the battle ground on legislation is the US with the major content trade associations Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) promoting a variety of new laws and regulations, and the consumer electronics companies promoting the view that the market and existing legislation should be used. In addition a group of legal experts and pressure groups like the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are trying to represent individual consumer interests.
The legal uncertainty is important for RTD because there is growing evidence that the legislature and the judiciary (eg. US Supreme Court) will make changes to the law and its interpretation, but it is not clear which way they will go. It is important for developers because many of the legal solutions proposed will severely limit the options available in the design of DRM and content management systems by mandating agreed standards.
Much of the pressure in the system is being generated by the attempts of the content industry to achieve what they see as major improvements in the balance of interest between themselves and consumers of their content. In the more extreme proposals being put forward the right of consumers to copy material for time-shifting in relation to TV, to lend copies of digital material to friends and to re-view material they have paid for once, would be restricted or removed by technical means.
One proposal currently being looked at by the US Senate is a bill that would force all copying systems to have standard hardware monitoring . Some owners believe such a system should contact the IP owner for approval for viewing or otherwise copying the material on every occasion. If such a system were enforced it is clear that it would strictly circumscribe how DRM and other content management systems could operate. A part of the proposal would enable content owners to turn off systems such as set-top boxes or computers to stop consumers using them in ways that the content owners disapproved off. A similar situation exists with regard to possible uses of the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance proposals .
Whilst it is unlikely that the more extreme proposals will prevail, there will be some changes. Indeed the current climate is causing the judiciary to review existing interpretations. The Supreme Court has recently reviewed the interpretation of US patent law, and is reconsidering the merit of increases in the length of copyright  (which it has so far allowed to be frequently extended). As the European countries have until now shown a strong tendency to follow US legislation the moves are also important for Europeans.
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