Digital Rights Management (DRM) : a failure in the developed world, a danger to the developing world. A paper for the International Telecommunications Union, ITU-R Working Party 6M Report on Content Protection Technologies

Doctorow, Cory and Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF and Union for the Public Domain, UPD and Open Knowledge Forum, OKF and IP Justice, IPJ and Alternative Law Forum, ALF and World Blind Union, WBU and European Digital Rights Initiative, EDRI and Electronic Frontier Finland, EFFF and Foundation for Information Policy Research, FIPR and Free Government Information, FGI and Vereniging Open Source Nederland, VOSN Digital Rights Management (DRM) : a failure in the developed world, a danger to the developing world. A paper for the International Telecommunications Union, ITU-R Working Party 6M Report on Content Protection Technologies., 2005 . In ITU-R Working Party 6M Report on Content Protection Technologies, Geneva (Switzerland), 11 March 2005. [Conference paper]


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English abstract

This paper is part of our ongoing effort to bring some sanity to the blind march toward DRM technologies. These technologies don't work for stopping copyright infringement - their supposed function - yet they've served as an anti-competitive cudgel, a set of shackles on the public's rights in copyright, and a rubric for censoring and even jailing security researchers. EFF is delighted to be able to get this much-needed reality check before policymakers worldwide as they consider the question: 'Which DRM is best for my country?' Our answer: 'DRM will exact a punishing toll on your national interest and yield no benefit at all.' The paper explores the ways that DRM has harmed the developed world, negatively impacting scientific research, speech, innovation, competition, legitimate consumer interests, access by disabled people, archiving and library functions, and distance education. The paper goes on to examine the risks to the developing world in terms of its potential to curtail the public domain, to criminalize free and open source software projects, to enable region-based discrimination, and to lock local artists, authors, and performers into the monopoly pricing of DRM vendors. DRM has no nexus with promoting culture or stopping infringement. The rent it exacts from the nations it colonizes is too dear for anyone to bear. As you will see, the answer to "Which DRM will spur the most development in my nation?" is "None at all."

Item type: Conference paper
Keywords: Digital Rights Management. Intellectual Property. Copyright. Public Domain. Scientific research. Freedom of speech. Libraries. Developed countries. Developing countries.
Subjects: E. Publishing and legal issues. > ED. Intellectual property: author's rights, ownership, copyright, copyleft, open access.
B. Information use and sociology of information > BC. Information in society.
G. Industry, profession and education. > GB. Software industry.
G. Industry, profession and education. > GC. Computer and telecommunication industry.
B. Information use and sociology of information > BF. Information policy
Depositing user: Zapopan Martín Muela-Meza
Date deposited: 18 Jan 2006
Last modified: 02 Oct 2014 12:02


See for more

2. See

3. James Boyle, “A Natural Experiment”, November 22, 2004,


4. Schneier is the author of such books as Applied Cryptography, Secrets and Lies, and

Beyond Fear; see

5. GNU/Linux is a free operating system produced by volunteer effort that is in

widespread use throughout the developing world, and it has been held to be critical to the

successful development efforts in countries such as India and Brazil

6. For instance, there are anti-circumvention obligations in the draft Free Trade Area of

the Americas agreement being negotiated by the 34 countries of the Western hemisphere, in

the U.S.- Morocco bilateral Free Trade Agreement, and the U.S.-Central America regional

free trade agreement.

7. see

8. see

9. see

10. see Donkey Drawn Mobile Library Services in Zimbabwe, IFLA report No 72

11. see

12. see

13. see

14. Indeed, in the developed world, this can have disastrous consequences for the public,

as in January 2005, when there was a catastrophic failure of the Valve DRM server used to

verify the registration keys for players of the popular game Half Life 2. Though the game

was the players' property and though the players wished merely to play them on their own

computers, the failure of a network service rendered their property worthless.


15. See

16. A very good explanation of this is to be found in a paper written by four Microsoft

engineers, "The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution," see


17. See for more

18. see


19. see


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