About this issue
Online music here and elsewhere
The issue starts with a country report about China written by Anna-Lucille Montgomery, a researcher from Australia. Her article is based on desk research and interviews with Chinese experts. The subject is the online music market in China, which is embedded in the broader picture of ICT penetration, social habits and legal developments since China became member of the World Trade Organisation. It is against this background that the potential role of DRM systems and innovative business models is discussed. She concludes that "consumers who are used to receiving content for free will not willingly shift to a system which expects them to pay" and "the copyright environment in China may force intellectual property owners to move away from a royalty-based system for content provision".

The next article moves us from Far East to Eastern Europe, but the topic of online music is still the same. Kristóf Kerényi shares his hands-on-experience with online music services in Hungary. He describes his experiences as distressful: limited choice, high prices and low level of service. No wonder that in this situation file-sharing as well as illegal music and video downloading are dominant. Consequently "DRM-based services will have to become a lot better to beat the free offerings of the (dark)net". However, without competition, this won't happen.

Nicole Dufft attended Popkomm 2005 in Berlin, one of the important music industry fairs, a place to watch out for new developments in the online music business. She found that the hype about DRM has decreased. From being a prominent topic onstage it apparently turned into a mere technical problem, and this type of problem is usually dealt with backstage. The hot topics of the fair were: mobile music, podcasting, other new radio formats, and subscription services vs. a-la-carte downloads. Nicole regards the music industry as "becoming more creative and innovative" offering better services to consumers.

B2B business models with or without DRM
The next issue is again about online music, and it is about B2B DRM. Margreet Groenenboom is carefully explaining the "Study on a community initiative on the cross border collective management of copyright" prepared by the European Commission and released 7 July 2005. It is worth mentioning that the paper is based on a stakeholder consultation and that presently the consultation of stakeholders goes on (with 80 reactions so far).

In this paper the Commission reflects how cross border licensing practices might be improved. The most important stakeholders are on the one hand online music shops striving to deliver their services throughout Europe, and collecting societies with whom licenses have to be negotiated. The current situation requires rethinking the role of collecting societies, and an assessment of the potential of DRM systems to make this licensing business more effective. I imagine a good solution would help to solve some of the problems Kristóf Kerényi described for Hungary. In my view it is important here, not to mix up B2B DRM with B2C DRM. Effective solutions of this cross border licensing issue will probably rely on B2B DRM, but this assumption does not say anything about the need of B2C DRM.

The licensing relationship between academic publishers and libraries is the topic of the next article dealt with by Brian Green, an outstanding standards expert in the publishing business. The question is how digital rights should be managed in the B2B relation between academic publishers and libraries. This is an issue, because the number of digital resources in libraries is growing and libraries have to cope therefore with many different licensing terms. What is needed are appropriate metadata standards. Brian Green reports about initiatives and the state of the art in this field. In his outlook he states that "... in addition to the technical work remaining, there are still several practical and political issues to be dealt with". Among them is the concern that the development of these metadata standards may lead to the introduction of DRM enforcement technology into the relationship among publishers, libraries and library users. Brian Green is convinced that this worry is unfounded.

Paola Mazzucchi, AIE – Associazione Italiana Editor, presents findings of the OrmeE project funded by the European Commission's eLearning programme. OrmeE stands for the "Observatory on Rights Management for eLearning in Europe". The perspective of OrmeE is the role of educational publishers in the emerging transnational e-content market.

Traditional textbook publishers have to deal with new competitors, among them companies specialised in e-Learning or technology companies. In this new market, content providers, aggregators, and distributing intermediaries have to find business models (9 types of constellations are presented in the article), which meet the needs of the educational world. Licensing models to be adopted are a crucial issue, and in this context DRM has become a topic of discussion. Among the current problems of educational publishers highlighted by Paola Mazzucchi is the poor adoption of complex DRM systems by educational publishing houses, and the lack of a truly harmonised legal framework. In her words: "... despite the stated goal of harmonising national copyright legislations, the implementation of the 2001 Directive has not yet achieved much in making the exceptions in the field of educational uses converge. It is therefore crucial to find and support best practices that demonstrate the actual possibility to combine copyright protection and effective access to content by educational organisations and individual learners".

Technology assessment of DRM in Denmark
The final article of this issue, titled "Digital rights in the information society" presents the result of a study about "consequences and implications of digitalisation and DRM" carried out by the Danish Board of Technology. A working group of stakeholders was set up to debate and outline a new balance between consumers' and rightholders' interests. However, insufficient practical experience with DRM systems and a divergent understanding of what DRM really is, turned out to be a major obstacle to achieve this goal. Nevertheless the concerns and recommendations, as described by Jacob Skjødt Nielsen are very interesting. Just to highlight some of them: one recommendation is to intensify cooperation between ministries in these matters, another to organize further consensus building activities with a long-term perspective in mind. A need for new usage rights, a need for interoperability and open standards, and a need to gain more experience with DRM in the public sector were further points. All in all, the debate in Denmark appears to be rather similar to the debate in other comparable European countries – in other words: the Danish Technology Assessment is a piece of European debate.

About the author: Knud Böhle is researcher at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at Research Centre Karlsruhe since 1986. Between October 2000 and April 2002 he was visiting scientist at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Seville (IPTS). He is specialised in Technology Assessment and Foresight of ICT and has led various projects. Currently he is the editor of the INDICARE Monitor. Contact: + 49 7247 822989, knud.boehle@itas.fzk.de

Status: first posted 30/09/05; licensed under Creative Commons
URL: http://www.indicare.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=145