On Tuesday 14th March 2006 I attended the Westminster Media eForum on IPR and DRM and unfortunately it was packed to the gills with silken-voiced lobbyists who drowned a lot of the debate droning on with comments like "I welcome the speaker's contribution to the wide-ranging leadership he has given over the use of Digital Rights Management meta-data distribution MI3P protocols and the MWLI and GRID over the past few years".... Like who actually speaks like that? Weird... Bill Thompson made a good intervention when he pointed this out on a panel at one point..

The news though is starting to leak out (PR out?) and one of the strangest speeches came from Derek Wyatt MP who asked the question "Who could be trusted with the DRM debate?", now I was expecting maybe Parliament, or perhaps a democratic discussion amongst citizens, but he actually recommended the British Library and the Oxford Internet Institute. Neither of which is exactly democratic, nor, let's face it, geared up to holding any form of democratic debate due to the lack of their legitimacy... So I was puzzled as to how when:

(a) The British Library is now talking in a weird Blairite public-private collaboration language (PFI/private partnerships etc etc) and seems pro-copyright.
(b) The OII is pretty much privately funded by non-governmental foundations and corporations (£10 Million from the Shirley Foundation, CISCO, Microsoft et al)

We can expect them to avoid being held to ransom by private interests? Are these really the places to trust to put the citizen before economic logics? I am personally rather sceptical. Although I think that academics and public institutions can have a lot of input into this process, we need to make sure that Parliament is setting the terms of the debate and perhaps a Select Committee is a better home for the inquiry?

Certainly when one sees that the recent Gower inquiry is already assuming a position (i.e. copyright good) it limits the extent to which it can think out of the box. I would like to see Parliament asking whether DRM's should be legally constrained to prevent some of the more extreme activities (such as limiting rights they have no right to limit) and to ensure that we do allow a de facto privatisation of copyright law...

Here is some news about the event..

And here is a great discussion i've been having with Gabriella Coleman, Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter


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