In the US, the digital rights management debate is heating up again as Steven Metalitz, the lawyer representing copyright holder organisations such as the MPAA and RIAA works to convince the US Copyright Office allowing exemptions to the rules against defeating digital rights management (DRM) features embedded into music tracks purchased form online music stores is a bad thing.

In his response to questions asked by the US Copyright Office, Metalitz has come out swinging, opposing exemptions which would allow users to legally strip DRM copy protection features out of music tracks should the music store they were originally purchased the music from go bust.

As digital rights management authentication servers would be in turn shut down, the tracks would be rendered unplayable.

Metalitz argues that copyright owners are being held to unreasonable standards should the US copyright office require they provide consumers with lifelong access to creative works.

According to Metalitz "No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so."

Superficially Metalitz's argument may sound rational, however the real argument here isn't about copyright holders being held to unreasonable standards, rather its more about the legitimacy of DRM, remembering of course that online music stores only agreed to lobotomise music tracks with DRM authentication in the first place to placate copyright holders.

That this representative of copyright lobbyists finds telling consumers it's simply bad luck they were lumbered with crippled music that the same copyright organisations insisted on in the first place is nothing short of breathtaking.

Sure other goods do wear out over time, but in most cases they weren't sold pre-crippled to start with. Even more astonishing is the fact that Metalitz can make such a bold statement given virtually all online music stores - including Apple's iTunes store - have dumped DRM are uncrippled and will work in perpetuity.

If that was as far as his comments went, you'd be forgiven for writing off him off as being an over-zealous representative of US copyright holder organisations determined to do the right thing for his stakeholders, but Metalitz also went on to say that any exemptions could discourage content providers from online distribution and that it could stifle innovation and competition.

Someone really does need to tell this guy that the market doesn't want DRM, online store providers don't want it and the sooner the MPAA, RIAA and their international subsidiaries realise this the better we will all be using the energies otherwise wasted in debating it to focus real issues such as global warming, or why toast always lands buttered side down on the kitchen floor.

While it can be argued that the whole music/DRM issue is increasingly a dead duck, the MPAA, RIAA and other copyright organisations are likely to stick to their guns in order to keep DRM alive in order to maintain a strong defensive position for digital video which given the growing popularity of downloading movies and TV shows via peer to peer services is set to emerge as the next big battleground going forwards.

The US Copyright Office has already indicated that they may seek run with the proposed DRM exemptions, which could in turn have wider reaching consequences globally should other government copyright agencies seek to embrace this policy.

Source: New Zealand Herald