Michael Geist’s “30 Days of DRM”

Canadian cyberprof Michael Geist is spending one month writing a series of daily blog postings on digital rights management law, technology, and policy. We are up to Day 3 of his “30 Days of DRM” series, and it’s already looking like it will be a tremendous resource for people interested in the broader DRM debate. Geist is trying to forestall the adoption of restrictive anti-circumvention legislation in Canada (analogous to the DMCA here in the U.S.) by highlighting problems with legislation previously introduced in Canada and with the system of technological protections that content owners can be expected to deploy if the legislation passes. And, in an interesting twist, he has invited public input and comment on his ideas via an accompanying wiki. Here’s the mandate Geist set for himself in his inaugural post last Friday:

Starting tomorrow, I plan to spend the thirty days before the House of Commons reconvenes to highlight some of the exceptions and limitations that should be included in the event that a Canadian DMCA is introduced. Each day, I will post a new provision, focusing broadly on marketplace concerns, public protection, and fair circumvention. The postings will be collected on a single page to form a compilation of DRM policy issues. Moreover, I’m launching a wiki that will start with the postings and will hopefully grow as interested readers add examples and additional perspectives.

We should be working on a positive copyright agenda that includes an expanded fair dealing provision, reform to the statutory damages provision, the elimination of crown copyright, and protection from DRM. Instead, given the strength of the copyright lobby, we may need protection from the next copyright bill. The 30 Days of DRM page and the associated wiki will seek to provide a starting point for the kinds of protections politicians and policy makers should be contemplating.

Geist’s posts to date have focused on the market-distorting possibilities of DRM technology, including what Professor Felten has come to label “PRM” systems — applications of DRM that have little to do with protecting copyright rights, and much to do with controlling the markets in which DRM-wrapped products are sold.

Canada is writing against a blank statutory slate here, and Geist’s posts are aimed at trying to prevent Canada from making some of the same mistakes as the United States. His posts seem to be animated by the same idea that drives Urs Gasser’s recent comparative essay (about which I blogged here and here) on anti-circumvention regulations in the EU: assuming for the moment that international law requires the adoption of some form of anti-circumvention regulations, how might those regulations be framed so as to minimize the disruption of existing legal doctrines and consumer norms? Geist’s posts illuminate the range of choices from which policymakers might choose, and illustrate the importance of choosing the “right” ones. People interested in the DRM debate, particularly in its international and comparative aspects, will want to follow Professor Geist’s ongoing “30 Days of DRM” series closely.

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