About this issue
DRM and accessibility
The issue's special focus is on DRM and accessibility an important topic not only for disabled persons. This topic has already been dealt with before in the INDICARE State of the art report by Bettina Krings (cf. Helberger et al. 2004, pp. 30-33) and in the first supplement to this report by Ulrich Riehm (cf. Helberger et al. 2005, pp. 6-8).

Disabled persons, especially blind, partially sighted and other print disabled people have to rely on exemptions within copyright law allowing them to effectively use assistive technologies even in cases where the content is protected by TPMs. The three articles dealing with this subject make us aware of the troubles still existing, but also of the solutions at hand. When talking about this subject it is important to have in mind that blind and visually impaired people are consumers like you and me, and that improving accessibility is not only to the benefit of this group, but for all of us.

David Mann, who works for the Royal National Institute of the Blind in the UK and chairs the European Blind Union's Working Group on Copyright and Publishing, provides an excellent overview of the issues at stake. Among others he points to the risk that DRM might disable assistive technologies and hints at the irony that the great potential of the e-book technology, enabling the accessibility of publications as never before for print disabled people, might not be leveraged due to DRM restrictions in place. He discusses in more depth Adobe's policy in this matter presenting it as a model where access to content is granted based on trust relationships and a trusted environment. Mann also points out that the EU in its copyright directive at least – in contrast to WIPO recognises exemptions and limitations for people with reading related disabilities. However he criticises that it falls short of providing for the harmonization of the exceptions required.

The next article stems from David Crombie and colleagues who are co-ordinating the European Accessible Information Network (EUAIN), a project funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework IST programme's eInclusion thread. Their article puts forward two important messages:

  • First, by and large technological solutions and standards required to allow print disabled people to enjoy e-content are already there (not excluding however a series of problems still around). The crucial point is that solutions developed anyway for multi-channel publishing and reuse of electronic material can also be applied for accessibility publishing. Even more, accessibility publishing may be regarded as the basis for e-content publishing in general. This turns around the logic in an important way: what is required to serve communities with special needs may change from an additional ex post activity to a prerequisite of mainstream e-content publishing.

  • Second, following the authors, in order to serve disabled people, trusted intermediaries and secure environments are necessary. In more general terms this approach might suggest that all groups or communities benefiting from copyright exceptions would have to turn into authorized consumers in trusted environments. Hence copyright legislation – allowing the application of TPMs to protect content on the one hand, while stipulating exemptions on the other hand – might imply a push for trusted computing infrastructures.

The third article of the focus theme comes from Zoltán Nagy, Speech Technology Ltd, Budapest. It gives an overview of the state of art of assistive technologies for the visually impaired, in particular OCR, text to speech engines (TTS), and screen readers. In terms of applications the development of e-books from simple voice books to standardized "DAISY books" is sketched. These are digital talking books combining and synchronising text and high quality voice. Many books have been published using the DAISY standard which confirms that solutions developed for print disabled have the potential to become mainstream. Another interesting service, called Világhalló, has been developed in Hungary. It is an integrated on-line service which combines text and voice flow to consumers, a kind of text radio. Infringing copyright is made difficult as the text alone is not accessible. This is in line with the publishers’ requirements as Nagy says.

This article makes us also aware that accessibility means more for blind and visually impaired people than mere e-book text to speech transformation. There is an urgent need for websites designed respecting accessibility criteria, a need for assistive technology supporting the use of software, and a demand to make high-devices and services like mobile phones more accessible. Addressing these challenges, the author also hints at possible solutions.

Technical analyses
Sam Michiels, Koen Buyens, Kristof Verslype, Wouter Joosen and Bart De Decker, computer scientists from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, deal with a highly relevant topic: the lack of a generic software architecture guiding the design and implementation of DRM systems or applications, and supporting interoperability of DRM technologies and their reuse. In their view software architecture design for DRM should be at the top of the research agenda. The authors propose a layered DRM architecture that supports DRM developers in producing complete and interoperable systems. The architecture is approached from both a functional and a security perspective. What makes this article particularly readable for non-techies is the fact that the authors have taken the Internet architecture as a guiding model not disregarding however the differences when it comes to DRM. What is also very laudable is that the developers did not exclusively discuss their own solution, but relate it to the efforts of others, in this case with those of the Digital Media Project, which has been addressed in the INDICARE Monitor several times already (cf. e.g. Jeges 2005).

The second technical analysis is about Japanese digital broadcasting. We invited Kiyohiko Ishikawa, researcher at Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), to contribute to the INDICARE Monitor, and to help us compare different approaches of content protection in different regions of the world. The author, who is currently working on a security system for digital broadcasting based on home servers, introduces us to the current state of digital broadcasting in Japan and the protection measures in place. How it works in Japan is explained in some detail. Apart from the technical details, it is interesting to see the difference between the Japanese and the US approach. In Japan, where broadcasting is scrambled but free to air, the technical protection measures applied rely on a Conditional Access System (chipcard and set-top-box), which does not need a broadcast flag.

Legal analysis of the Sony BMG rootkit scandal
Natali Helberger analyses the Sony BMG rootkit scandal from a lawyer's point of view, i.e. she goes into detail with respect to the class actions filed against Sony BMG. A class action allows e.g. consumers to complain as a group avoiding individual law suits. One of these class actions was on behalf of Sony BMG CD buyers in the US and brought by a Californian lawyer, Alan Himmelfarb, while the second class action was brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) with a broader scope: against Sony BMG’s XCP technology and the MediaMax technology used by Sony BMG, and provisions in the consumer contract. An important observation is that in these cases it was consumer law (and not copyright law) brought against DRM.

  • Jeges, Ernő (2005): Digital Media Project – Part I. Towards an interoperable DRM platform. INDICARE Monitor, Vol. 2, Number 4, June 2005; http://www.indicare.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=116
  • Helberger, Natali (ed.); Dufft, Nicole; Groenenboom, Margreet; Kerényi, Kristóf; Orwat, Carsten; Riehm, Ulrich (2005): Digital rights management and consumer acceptability. A multi-disciplinary discussion of consumer concerns and expectations. State-of-the-art report – First supplement, Amsterdam May 2005; http://www.indicare.org/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=111
  • Helberger, Natali (ed.); Dufft Nicole; Gompel, Stef; Kerényi, Kristóf; Krings, Bettina; Lambers, Rik; Orwat, Carsten; Riehm, Ulrich (2004): Digital rights management and consumer acceptability. A multi-disciplinary discussion of consumer concerns and expectations. State-of-the-art report, Amsterdam, December 2004; http://www.indicare.org/soareport

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 27/01/06; licensed under Creative Commons
URL: http://www.indicare.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=171