Digital Rights Management: should it be legal, and what about consumer warnings?

As Michael Geist points out, there are a number of serious flaws with Canada’s proposed copyright legislation, Bill C-61. In last Friday’s post, Michael talks about Unnecessary coverage of circumvention devices.

Michael’s post raises, for me, some important points.

Is it even legal to use digital rights management technology, especially if it is used in such a way as to prevent perfectly legal uses (such as private copying)? If it is – should this be reexamined?

Imagine this concept applied to other areas. Picture buying a car and paying appropriately, filling your half of the contract. Then you try to start the car and guess what – it doesn’t work! You ask the salesperson about this, and they explain that they’ve added DRM to your car, and you can’t legally circumvent it! For an extra few thousand, they’ll circumvent it for you. Does this sound like something appropriate or legal? This is exactly what Bill C-61 does!

If we’re going to talk about policy on digital rights management, why not make this a two-way conversation? What about our rights as consumers, and as citizens? If a company is selling a product that includes spyware, do they not have an obligation to disclose this before we purchase?

Why not stipulate appropriate consumer warnings? Here are some that I would like to see:

Your child’s misuse of our intellectual property could result in up to $20,000 in fines.

We prosecute children.

This product contains spyware.

If you rent this movie, you will be forced to watch advertisements and previews.

Alternatively, if the entertainment industry would really like my consumer dollar, here is the notice to post: DRM FREE.

Many thanks to Michael Geist, the people of Fair Copyright for Canada, and my librarian colleagues for all their work, appropriately fighting this unfair and unbalanced proposed legislation.