October 31, 2004

DRM Works

says Andreas Bovens in his new paper about "Closed architectures for content distribution: a threat for Japan's creative future?".

He says that all mobile phones sold in Japan now have some kind of DRM built in. All content (ring tones etc.) is locked to the device it was downloaded first. If you buy a new phone, there is no way to transfer your files from your old one.

That's a big deal. As Sun CEO Jonathan Schwarz recently wrote:

"Mobile-phone shipments long ago blew by PC numbers. The handset-to-PC ratio is nearly 10 to 1--a gap that's widening every day. And handsets are generating massive value. Compare the value of downloaded music on handsets (it's in the billions of dollars) to the value on desktops (it ain't billions)."

So this is another example of DRM working, contrary to what Cory Doctorow seems to think.

On the other hand, I hesitate to agree with the assertion on page 5 of the paper that Article 120bis of the Japanese Copyright Law prohibits the circumvention of technological protection measures. Mere circumvention is only prohibited if it is done as a business in response to a request from the public. In all other cases, circumvention as such is not relevant. For example, if someone circumvents DRM to extract an e-book edition of Akutagawa's "Kappa", then that would not be a violation of copyright (the author is dead since 1927) and, since there is no prohibition of circumvention as such, that would be perfectly legal under Japanese law.

The reason that the Japanese law does not prohibit circumvention as such is that in most cases it happens along with a violation of copyright, so there is no need for a seperate prohibition.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at October 31, 2004 06:51 PM | TrackBack