I'm grateful to James Governor for digging a bit further than me, visiting the National Consumer Council's website (as opposed to stopping with the BBC's report — see below). The NCC is dedicating time and energy to digital rights:
There is a new section to the website which
summarises the NCC's work on innovation and intellectual property
(IP). We argue that the view of consumers — as being at the end of the
value chain, choosing from the products and services offered by providers — is
outdated, and that this is reflected in IP law...
More information about the NCC's work on IP here:
Traditionally, businesses and policy-makers have tended to think of consumers
as being at the end of the value chain, choosing from the range of products and
services offered by providers. This does not describe how value is created in a
modern economy and the role consumers can, and do, play in innovation and the
co-creation of products and services.
This outdated view of the role of consumers is reflected in intellectual
property (IP) law which gives rights to owners to control the use of innovations
and ideas, and describes public and consumer fair access and use rights as
exclusions and exceptions.
In addition, powerful business lobbies have been able to exert considerable
influence on the development of IP law. This has increased the level of
protection of IP rights and reduced public and consumer access and use rights.
This is not just bad for consumers, it is bad for society, as it constrains
the ability of everyone to access important resources, and stifles the sorts of
consumer creativity that can enhance economic growth.
The NCC has a page about the Digital Rights Campaign of the Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs:
On 10 November 2005, BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, launched a
campaign for consumer rights in the digital environments calling for the
following rights to be enshrined in EU law:
- the right to choice, knowledge and cultural diversity
- the right to the principle of 'technical neutrality' — defend
and maintain consumer rights to the digital environment
- the right to benefit from technological innovations without
- the right to interoperability of content and devices
- the right to the protection of privacy
- the right not to be criminalised
In addition, the declaration calls for:
- industry to desist from legal action against P2P downloaders to
allow the market to find solutions for the on-line development of audio/visual
- action to ensure that DRM users respect consumer privacy and
fair use rights
The set of six bulleted points constitutes the BEUC's proposed Consumers' Digital
James quotes the BEUC's position statement:
BEUC believes that the European publishing sector is crucial to the
building of a knowledge-based economy. However, blindly ‘enhancing’,
‘supporting’ and ‘extending’ the copyright protection regime may confer
unjustified monopoly privileges, impede competition, potentially impose
unfair costs on consumers and risk to inhibit creativity. Do we want a
society in which the free exchange of ideas - on which our society
thrives - remains possible or do we want access to content curtailed by
excessive copyright regulation and abusive use of DRMs? The report
correctly states about copyright and DRMs that “widespread acceptance
by consumers is still lacking”. The reason for this is (at least)
twofold: Firstly, DRMs are restricting consumers legitimate use of
copyrighted (and non-copyrighted) material. According to the
Commission, publishers also regard DRM as a technology with increased
control over content and more precise definitions of the rights
associated to the assets they commercialise. These “rights” go beyond
what is asserted by intellectual property law and we deplore the lack
of discussion on potential adverse effects on consumers, and the
eventual need to guarantee consumers rights in relation to the works
they legally purchase.
He also found their online petition. To echo James: please go sign it.
As the BEUC puts it elsewhere (1/ here and 2/ here) on their website:
Under the heading of Digital Rights Management (DRM) new technologies are being
used to limit or prohibit perfectly legitimate practices. “Exemplary" legal
cases are being prosecuted and users threatened with huge penalties for
downloading music or films on the Internet. The industry hides behind the
artists that it claims to defend, alienating their fans and supporters.
We know that there is a serious global problem of piracy. Consumers
should not buy counterfeit copies of CDs and DVDs; too often these products are
made in large numbers by organised criminal, and probably also terrorist, gangs.
On the other hand, private consumers are not criminals or terrorists and the
industry must stop portraying them as such. The time has come to
guarantee consumers certain basic rights in the digital world, and to tell them
what they can do with their digital hardware/content.
This is our message in this campaign.
We urge policy makers to endorse the 6 Consumers Digital
Rights, and demand:
- A legal framework that will
encourage new means of exposure and distribution of digital content, while
guaranteeing remuneration to artists, creators and performers and providing
consumers and the public with new means of access, discovery and new
- A new balance between exclusive rights in
the exploitation of digital content and public interest objectives in using and
sharing such content, taking into account the new possibilities of content usage
enabled by technical progress;
- That industry
desist from legal action against P2P downloaders to allow the market to find
solutions for the on-line development of audio/visual distribution that takes
due account of the public interest and the interest of artists, creators and
- Action to find solutions on how
consumers can effectively exercise their private use rights and to guarantee
that users of DRMs respect the legitimate interest of consumers in their
personal autonomy and private sphere;
to ensure that TPMs or DRMs, which restrict uses legally exempted from copyright
or not falling under copyright, do not benefit from legal
- A review of the EU legal framework on
consumer protection and intellectual property in view of the 6 consumers rights
demands expressed in this Declaration.
Technorati tags: NCC,
IP, innovation, DRM, Copy Rights