Legislation needed to 'prevent DRM and patent abuses'

Legislation needed to 'prevent DRM and patent abuses'

Summary: Cambridge University's Ross Anderson has given parliament advice on how to protect the UK from the excesses of technology

TOPICS: Government UK

An influential security researcher has urged members of parliament to tighten up the law to prevent technology and media companies from abusing patents and digital rights management applications.

Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, told the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) that tougher legislation was needed to stop technology unfairly restricting what a user or customer can do with the products they buy.

"DRM doesn't just affect music," said Anderson. "It also locks your printer cartridge, and eventually it will lock your spare car parts to your car. Governments and courts will need a wide-ranging approach to this issue, and can't just rely on fudges created for individual cases."

APIG is investigating DRM following the controversy caused by Sony's use of rootkit-like software to hide the copy restrictions on some music CDs. This exposed users to the risk of virus attack, Anderson suggested that changes to UK law could help prevent a repeat.

"Parliament could revisit the Unfair Contracts Act. Consumers are finding that they can't get digital content without signing an end user agreement whose terms and conditions are ridiculous," said Anderson.

APIG heard from Lynn Holdsworth, a member of the Web management team at the Royal National Institute of the Blind, who is visually impaired. She explained that she bought an e-book from Amazon only to find that the document's DRM would not work with software she uses to make her computer read aloud.

"Companies could lose their legal protection if they use DRM in such a way," suggested Anderson. "Then, if you don't make your e-book accessible and someone hacks it, he wouldn't go to jail."

Anderson, who founded the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), also told APIG that the government could take action so that companies who made unfair use of patents would lose them.

"In the past, if I only licensed my bread-making patent to a miller if he also bought his wheat from my brother then I was liable to lose that patent. That provision was lost in the Competition Act of 2000," explained Anderson.

APIG is due to produce its report into DRM, including recommendations for government, within the next three months.

Anderson also submitted a consultation response to APIG, on behalf of the FIPR. It can be seen here.

Topic: Government UK

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Easy. Keep software patents out of Europe.
  • Nah just keep linux and its associated criminality out of europe
  • Care to explain and justify your comment Jon or are you just being an idiot as usual. Last time I looked Microsoft had broken a few laws too,.
  • Microsoft have broken a few laws, but an extremely high % of linux users are nothing but thieves (using the word pirate is just too weak)

    Business has a right to prevent their music and software being stolen, and most the people who whine about DRM wouldnt buy an album if it cost 10p.

    The linux 'community' is riddled with thieves, hackers,virus writers and general anti social behaviour. There are some genuine people out there but they are in a minority
  • I'm not even going to dignify the last post with a response.

  • A different approach to DRM

    data is a pain to manage - having everyone with seperate stores on different and incompatable devices makes it even more so.

    So the discussion should be about getting rid of all these storage devices and in this broadband/ wireless age having a pay per event system.
  • Jon: Your post is a preposterous, baseless and deeply offensive accusation. Do you have anything other than ignorance and spite to back it up?