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Copyright And Technology 2012 Conference

June 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Yesterday saw the first UK edition of this annual conference, which took place in London’s Kings Fund venue. The full day conference featured panels and expert speakers on that most interesting, challenging and potentially lucrative junction of copyright, content and technology. And, another buzzword for the ‘social’ melting pot – Social DRM!

Copyright And Technology Conference Word Cloud

Copyright And Technology Conference Word Cloud

The event format involved the usual keynotes and plenary sessions, during the morning segment, and a split into two streams, (covering technology and legal aspects), in the afternoon. My key take-aways include:

  1. User education on copyright content infringement is far too one-sided. According to expert copyright lawyer, Andrew Bridges, potential infringers / fans need ‘credible teachers’ with a more balanced agenda
  2. Traditional Hollywood release window is under threat (from user demand for content, here and now!)
  3. Piracy data collection / analysis are increasingly used by big content owners (e.g. Warner Bros and Harper Collins) to identify potential demand for specific content, via pirate channels. An interesting question by conference chair, Bill Rosenblatt, was whether content providers saw any potential for combining piracy data collection/analysis with social media buzz analysis, in order perhaps to help identify new market opportunities, remained mostly unanswered
  4. Media monitoring organisations can collect and analyse, (with consumers’ permission), actual usage data from user computers. According to the speaker from Warner Bros, their research apparently confirms claims that HADOPI has had an impact, with a recent decline in Peer-to-Peer file-sharing, in France.
  5. According to MarkMonitor, a high proportion of pirated ebook content are in the PDF format, which some think may be a result of easy portability between devices. Also, according to Harper Collins speaker, key motivational factors for ebook piracy include: Pricing, DRM and territorial restrictions.
  6. In the Technology stream, the panel on content identification (e.g. via fingerprinting vs. session based watermarking) discussed creation of content aware ecosystems using Automatic Content Recognition
  7. The term ‘Social DRM’ (a buzzword if I ever heard one) is the use of user information to uniquely identify digital content (and to potentially name and shame file sharers), as described by CEO of Icontact. One attendee grilled the presenter about ways and means to crack it! Apparently, the term Social DRM was coined by Bill McCoy at Adobe (now at IDPF), and is really just watermarking content with personally identifiable information
  8. Bill Rosenblatt described LCP (Lightweight Content Protection) for ePub as being somewhere in the middle of the content protection continuum (i.e. between no DRM and very strong DRM). Also, he observed that thepublishing industry stance on DRM is still in flux, and that genres such as (sci-fi, romance, IT) were mainly going DRM-free, whilst other e.g. higher education still used strong DRM to protect content
  9. Finally, my technology stream panel session on Security Challenges of Multi-Platform Content Distribution saw key contributions from experts, with multiple perspectives, from: a Security Consultant (Farncombe), DRM Provider (Nagra), Business PoV (Castlabs) and Content Provider / Owner (Sony Picture Entertainment).

Overall, this was a very good first outing for the Copyright and Technology conference in London. The co- organisers, GiantSteps and MusicAlly, did a great job to pull it off, despite disappointment (by last minute cancellation of a keynote) from the HADOPI Secretary General). I would certainly encourage anyone interested in the opportunities and challenges of content, technology and copyright to attend this conference in future. And yes, Social DRM is my new buzzword of the month!

Free ‘DRM-Free’ Music

August 14, 2007 Leave a comment

Now that EMI and Universal have announced / started offering DRM free music, it only looks like a matter of time before the other two major labels (i.e. Warner Music Group and SonyBMG) follow suite. The question is how will they do so, and what are the likely impacts of these developments?

In the first instance, it would appear that DRM free music is a ‘no brainer’ option that should have been offered right from the start, but that would be the proverbial 20/20 hindsight vision talking. Sometimes we need severe pain to achieve the clarity of vision required to make very bold decisions. In this instance the two companies have chosen slightly different approaches to implementing their DRM-free music offers as follows:

  1. In April 2007, EMI launched a global premium download initiative that offered higher quality downloadable versions of its entire repertoire without DRM protection. This was initially only available on Apple’s iTunes music store, but has since expanded to include other retailers including Amazon’s soon to be launched music store.
  2. On the other hand Universal Music Group announced its intention to continue testing digital music sales options by offering thousands of albums and tracks for sale without DRM (but only within the trial period of August 2007 – January 2008). It has enlisted several outlets for this experiment including; Rhapsody, Wal-Mart, Google and Amazon, but significantly excluded Apple’s iTunes.

Both companies see DRM-free music as only another option to market; and they sited the lack of DRM interoperability, (and the resulting inconvenience to consumer), as a major factor in their decision. The main difference is related to their apparent degree of commitment, EMI has offered everything in its repertoire, but Universal has chosen a more measured, trials-based, approach. In any case, it now remains to be seen when, rather than whether, the other two major record companies will join the fun.

Does this mean the end of DRM? I am not so sure, because according to a DRMWatch article, two recent consumer surveys show that users are slowly becoming more aware of and, dare I say, accepting of DRM. Furthermore, there is now some speculation that Universal’s DRM-free experiment may include forensic watermarking technology in the music files which could perhaps be used to identify the purchasor of the DRM-free tracks.

Hmmm, not so DRM-free after all it would appear. In any case, our penchant for ‘free’ may soon lead to cost-free, DRM-free music. Now wouldn’t that be something? Wait a minute, I think that already happened with Napster back in 2000!