The music and computer industries have come out against any moves by the US government to embed anti-piracy technology in software and consumer electronic devices. This puts them in a different camp from Hollywood's mouthpiece, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which supports government-mandated technology.
In a statement yesterday, its counterparts in the music and software industries, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA), said they are "working to address piracy concerns while also seeking to embrace the digital age and meet consumer expectations". Educating the consumer about piracy is a key programme.
Robert Holleyman, President and CEO of the BSA, says: "This is a landmark agreement because it shows that a broad cross-section of companies have come to the conclusion that government-mandated technology protection measures simply won’t work. The technology industry – more than anyone – knows this. And today’s agreement shows that the companies that are hard hit by Internet piracy understand this."
And now for the RIAA's Hilary Rosen.
"The digital transformation of the music business is not coming - - it is here. Now there are multiple ways for music fans to buy or subscribe to great legitimate music online. And consumers will enjoy even more new products in the coming years thanks to technological advances.
"Our challenge in the public policy arena is to support that business development through enforcement, education and technical solutions that promote growth. This agreement keeps RIAA's focus on the tasks at hand and minimizes the distracting public rhetoric and needless legislative battles. It follows what I have always believed - - that our industries need to work together for the consumer to benefit and for our respective businesses to grow. Our responsibility is to seek common ground to foster that growth."
From where we sit, this does not mean no Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. It merely means no government DRM technology. And note, neither music or software industries want to see the repeal of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and its arsenal of legal cudgels.
But hurrah for some commonsense.
The RIAA is on record as acknowledging that illegal music sites will never be eradicated. But a tough litigation policy against renegade P2P networks, coupled with more attractive paid-for music propositions online is only part of the answer. Having to shell out £13.99-plus for a CD, just for one or two songs is perhaps the biggest con perpetrated upon us by the music industry. By contrast, buying - not licensing - a recording of a song for, say, a dollar, represents good value, and an enticement to buy more songs.
Good consumer propositions should be supported by a lightly-dusted anti-piracy technology, and it is good to see that the RIAA, and by inference, the BSA, at last seemed to have grasped this. Too aggressive, and customers will get pissed off in ever greater numbers. Poor technology and aggression have already alarmed many, annoyed more.
Early cack-handed digital rights management (DRM) attempts, have seen CDs hobbled so that, for example, they can't be played on PCs. Some DRM concepts, notably Palladium, contain serious privacy implications which really do need to be addressed before their roll-out.
So, will Congress heed the RIAA/BSA's warning to keep their tanks off the digital content lawn? Not if Hollywood has anything to do with it. The movie industry lobby has an influence far beyond its size would suggest. Today, for example, Disney won the support of the Supreme Court, which upheld a law that extends US copyright by 20 years.
The MPAA shows no sign of falling into line with the music and software industry. In a statement yesterday, MPAA's Jack Valenti said:
The film and music industries are separate, unique enterprises with different strategies for addressing the outstanding issues concerning digital copy protection. We are not prepared to abandon the option of seeking technical protection measures via the Congress or appropriate regulatory agency, when necessary, such as the adoption of the broadcast flag or closing the analog hole. Designing ways to protect valuable creative works is very much in the long-term best interests of consumers and indispensable to the nourishment of our nation’s economy. Because of this, we believe that no reasonable alternative course of action should be eliminated from consideration.
The gloves are off. ®