Commission curbs Civil Society in DRM Hearing

By EDRi · October 20, 2004

Civil Society representatives, user and consumer advocates were not allowed to voice their concerns on social, cultural and economic consequences of a wide-spread introduction of so-called Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology during a hearing organized by the European Commission on 11 October, in Brussels. Stopping short from actually censoring these concerns, which were voiced by a large number of advocacy groups and individuals during a recent consultation on DRM, the Commission’s DG Internal Market, who organized the event, invited only a few representatives of organizations that had taken a critical stance towards DRM.

Instead, lobbyists representing industry firms hoping to make big money with the technology were given abundant speaking time, very often two to three times as much as the allowed five-minute limit. This led to time running out in the end. And only at the very end the slot was planned during which most Civil Society speakers hoped to voice their concerns or talk about the various court cases that consumers have won against producers of media made useless by DRM. Thus the theme ‘Developments in case law as well as relevant economic, social or cultural or technological developments’ was skipped from the agenda.

The Hearing – originally organized to help the Committee established under Article 12 of the EU Copyright Directive, the so-called Contact Committee, evaluate the way Article 6 of that same Directive is being transposed, was thus turned into a self-reflection of the industry positions already dominant within this Committee. The same applies for the so-called High-Level Group on Digital Rights Management (HLG) brought together by the European Commission. The European Consumer’s Office, the only organization present in that group not representing industry interests, withdrew its support for the Final Report.

Even thought there are still lots of conflicts between content industry lobbies like MPA and IFPI on the one side and hardware makers like Panasonic and Apple, united in EICTA, on the other side, the main line of conflict was between those industries and Collecting Societies like the French SACEM, the Belgian Auvibel and the German GEMA. The Commission obviously would like to reconcile the approaches of those two parties, but does not know how to avoid double payment by consumers if DRM-protected works should also be subjected to levies by Collecting Societies, levies intended to compensate for private copying that can no longer happen if the work is protected against copying.

Programme of the Commission Hearing (11.10.2004)

Submissions to the EU Consultation on Digital Rights Management

Response to the Consultation by Ross Anderson, Chairman of EDRI member FIPR

Response to the consultation by, supported by EDRI member Bits of Freedom

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)