Disclosure of DRM Restrictions on Purchased Media?

business_ethics_highlights_2So much of the media (e.g., ebooks, music, movies) we purchase in the 21st century is use-limited by digital rights management (DRM). Implemented in software, DRM restrictions may limit the number of devices on which the media may be loaded, whether it may be played simultaneously on multiple devices, and whether it may be copied even for non-nefarious purposes like making a backup. Among the challenges attending the purchase of DRM-limited media for consumers is discovering that a particular product is DRM-limited and, even where this is apparent, discovering what particular DRM restrictions are on it. This raises an important ethical and public policy question: What ought sellers of DRM-limited media to disclose to potential buyers and how ought it to be disclosed? Unlabelled DRM-restricted media raises issues similar to those attending “shrink wrap” or “click wrap” agreements covering purchased software.

In the linked article, the Electronic Frontier Foundation urges the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to require labelling of DRM-restricted media so that purchasers may make an informed decision about what, exactly, they are buying. This piece and its included links could be used in the classroom to jump start a discussion on topics such as freedom of contract, disclosure, and ways in which intellectual property is disanalogous to understandings of buying, selling, and ownership that attend physical products. >>>

LINK: Should “Locked” Digital Content Be Labeled So You Know What You’re Buying? (by Chris Morran for Consumerist)

Have you ever “purchased” an ebook, mp3, or video only to found you can only access it on a certain number or type of devices, or that it must be played through a specific player, or only accessed when you’re connected to the internet? Maybe that’s the sort of thing you’d like to know before you paid for this content.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation — along with a coalition of publishers, consumer advocates, and other interested parties — have written to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to require that “locked” digital content be labeled accordingly.

“Without DRM labeling, it’s nearly impossible to figure out which products have digital locks and what restrictions these locks impose,” explains [EFF’s Cory] Doctorow in an emailed statement. “Customers have a right to know about these restrictions before they part with their money, not after.”

What do you think?


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