The workshop attended by about 40 persons took place in the Informatics building of our university in Budapest on 19 January 2006. It was organised around five thematic blocks: "consumer surveys", "accessibility", "content providers’ experience", "consumer rights" and "consumer initiatives". This report does not aim to sum up everything that was said at the event, it is just meant as an appetizer for the full workshop report which will be available for download on the INDICARE web site in March 2006. Below I try to give a very brief coverage of the interesting facts and conclusions for myself.

Consumer surveys
It is very important to explore usage patterns, and other behavioural aspects of users with regard to digital content, since many experts agree that only such business models can win against traditional non-digital distribution channels and illegal offerings which provide more to the consumer, a value added over the common "buy in the store and own a copy" scenario. The common topic of the first block of presentations was what consumers want, how they use content today, in the early age of digital media, and what they know about DRM.

Alapan Arnab, a PhD student from the University of Cape Town started with a strong statement: DRM used to be a jargon for evil technology, also lately when flops like the recent Sony BMG rootkit case did not do any good for the reputation of digital rights management. He analysed some offerings by international companies, and came to the conclusion that terms of purchase were not well advertised, and this increased consumer distrust. He talked about an on-line survey made by his team, which collected 292 full responses to an impressive 91 questions, investigating consumer habits and attitudes towards DRM. Respondents were from countries all over the world. Unfortunately he had to rush through his findings to have time for the introduction of "good DRM". This, Arnab said, exploits the opportunities in technology for the benefit of the consumer rather than for mega companies, which use DRM only as an enforcement of copyright. DRM could also be used to protect personal data and ensure privacy, which, for example in the case of protecting medical information, would increase consumer trust in technology.

Dr. Péter Benjamin Tóth from ARTISJUS, the Hungarian Bureau for the Protection of Authors’ Rights, introduced the results of two surveys to support his statement that Digital Rights Management may not be the best solution to address today’s problems, instead Collective Rights Management – which term he preferred instead of calling ARTISJUS a collecting society – could be a better choice. He argued by drawing up the formulas based on which levies are collected, and supported his point with the figures derived from the two surveys.

Examining content copied to blank CDs and DVDs, both in a representative survey done by GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung), and in another done by Free Association at the Sziget festival (the biggest music festival in Central-Europe, therefore the respondents here were "power users" of music) he concluded that at least 90 percent of data burned to blank media was content protected by copyright, but subject to free copying. From this he derived the calculated amount of levy per carrier that should be a fair compensation for authors, and then showed the actual amount from use. Interestingly, even though the amount from use was at least 5 times smaller than the smallest calculated amount, most consumers think even this small amount unfair for themselves. Levies have to be held so low, Tóth said, because there is a strong black market presence also on the market of blank CDs and DVDs, with which they have to compete, and consumers, here too, vote with their wallets.

Philipp Bohn, analyst and INDICARE team member from Berlecon Research, talked about the results of the first consumer survey on digital music (Dufft et. al. 2005) and introduced the second consumer survey on digital video use, which was at that time being prepared, although it is now online on the INDICARE web site (Dufft et al. 2006).

Norbert Márkus from the KFKI Laboratory of Speech Technology for Rehabilitation, and also a jazz pianist and composer gave a very extensive introduction to the history of accessibility on the computer. He said that in the 80s and early 90s blind people were in a not much worse situation than their sighted colleagues. Then with the coming of window-based systems (also Microsoft Windows) their situation got much worse, but by today the technology has improved to work again with the latest computers. However, nowadays the problems are due to carelessly designed layout. DRM means another difficulty for accessibility, since, though allowed by copyright law, making content accessible for the blind would mean in many cases making it available for content pirates, too. At least the content publishers have this opinion, which, again, means great difficulty for blind or partially sighted people. Márkus talked also about musical scores in Braille form, which are represented in computers as BMX (Braille Music XML). The situation with this is the same as with other content: publishers fear of pirates.

Hugh Huddy from the Royal National Institute of the Blind, head of Campaign for good E-Document Design, gave a talk about new opportunities and hurdles that e-documents pose for the blind. After demonstrating some special programs that make laptops, mobile phones and other electronic staff blind-friendly, Huddy talked about a new world where paper is gone. This opens up the opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to have an equal chance in life for accessing information, but he said, just as we create artificial barriers for handicapped people in the physical world, we are re-creating such barriers for the blind in the electronic world. He emphasised the responsibility of technology companies, policy makers and also users to create a world where the "Right to Read" is reality.

Content providers’ experience
The rather short session where two large telecommunication providers, T-Online and T-Mobile, introduced their view of DRM inspired a lively debate.

Miklós Gyertyánfy from T-Online talked about the T-Group member’s music offerings and use of DRM (also covered in Kerenyi 2005), and also introduced their video-on-demand service. They chose Microsoft’s solution because it is compatible with most players. He also underlined that while they have the intention, it is not yet possible to introduce electronic video sell-through (download and burn), since MS technology does not support it. Gyertyánfy talked about T-Online’s new pilot project with IPTV, into which they will incorporate all previous DRM-related experience. The most important, he said, was: users don't want to understand technology, just use the content anytime, anywhere.

Péter Verhás from T-Mobile talked about the technical solutions which are used to protect content. He talked about OMA DRM 1, which is used by the vast majority of phones today, using the phone as authentication token, not the SIM card, which means that interoperability was not even an issue when the system was designed. However, as in the case of T-Online, they provide a "reload" service for the new device: the content provider has a record of what the consumer has purchased, and enables her to re-download the content for the new device. Registering what a consumer has purchased also gives the advantage for the content providers of knowing the customer, and his habits. This and the contractual relationship between the telecommunications provider and the consumer puts mobile operators at an advantage. Verhás had another very important point in his presentation: he emphasised that while mobile phones are becoming the DRM enabler devices today, their usage pattern differs between countries, thus cell phones do not enable content usage and DRM in the same way across cultures.

Both speakers attracted a huge wave of complaints and questions regarding their services and attitudes towards consumers: it seemed like as they were the only representatives of the content providers, some workshop participants blamed them for the current, in many cases unfriendly situation with real world content offerings.

Consumer rights
One of the questions most interesting to consumers is their rights, and legal state when dealing with digital content. Consumers are often criminalized, advertisements on the streets and television spots emphasise that downloading music is illegal. On the other hand, content providers often impose conditions that are unfair and in many cases unacceptable for consumers.

Lars Grøndal from BEUC on secondment from the Consumer Council of Norway, talked about standard terms of contracts regulating how consumers can use digital products legally, and DRM controlling how consumers can use digital content de facto, and the two not meeting in many cases. With a case study on iTunes’ standard terms he illustrated how unfair terms and conditions of purchase can be. Grøndal mentioned that consumers are not in a very bad situation, since for example in Norway, one can legally circumvent DRM measures either to achieve accessibility or to be able to play purchased content on another player. He concluded his speech with the statement that "business interests are not the only that deserve protection" (cf. also Grøndal 2006).

Dr. Anikó Gyenge from the Hungarian Ministry of Justice talked about the well-known controversy between copyright law and TPM (technical protection measures). She emphasised that not all of the technical functions can be legally interpreted, therefore not all measures are protected by copyright law. She talked about free use and to what extent DRM restricted legal copyright exemptions. In the end she concluded, that while consumers might be in a not too favourable situation, there is a difference between written law and enforced law: since the regulatory system is hard to interpret in practice, judges in many cases do not apply the code – to the benefit of consumers.

Matthias Spielkamp, editor of introduced their project to the workshop participants. He said that they examined the contract terms of three music services available in Germany: iTunes, Musicload and Sony Connect had 33, 18 and 55 pages of usage terms respectively after he copied and pasted them into Word, and corrected their font size and layout., a project funded by the German Ministry of Consumer Protection, provides additional information, since, as Spielkamp pointed out, from these terms and conditions "no one is able to understand what is going on". Fairness, openness, reliability, independence and finding the correct balance between alternatives are their main approach. On their web page consumers can find more than 40 texts on basic aspects of law and usage, and there are news every week. follows an interdisciplinary approach and uses current media tools to educate German consumers about their rights regarding digital content and DRM.

Consumer initiatives
Martin Springer, a private contributor to the Digital Media Project, started his presentation with a case study: Every couple of years the soccer leagues make their exclusive license deals with three or four content providers, and thus they force their fans to either accept their new proprietary DRM standard, or stop watching the games. Thus if a football fan in Germany wants to follow his team’s matches in national and international games, he needs to subscribe to several service providers and network providers, and spend a lot of money for buying incompatible receivers and to subscribe to unnecessary programme packages. He concluded that the industry uses DRM as a weapon against competitors, trying to lock consumers into a particular DRM scheme and particular business models. Innovative media usages like sharing content among soccer fans from different European countries are impossible. Springer suggested that consumers should get involved in DRM standardization with the goal of creating a standard DRM that is open and acceptable for both consumers and rights holders. He introduced the DMP project (Jeges 2005; Jeges and Kerenyi 2005 ), in which he works because he intends to defend concepts like privacy and End-user Rights in a DRM standard.

Balázs Bodó, assistant lecturer and researcher from the BUTE Centre for Media Research and Education, introduced the Silent Library Project, a commons-based peer production. First he illustrated with figures, that both on the Hungarian, and US markets, considering both books and feature films, around 20 per cent of the titles that have been published within the last 15 years are still available for purchase. The simple reason is lack of shelf space, he said. However, there is still a considerable market demand for those titles not on the shelves. Each is under copyright, but they are not available from legal sources. The Silent Library Project is an illegal movement, a group of people who started scanning and digitizing such titles, and sharing them with each other, making them available again. DRM has a completely different approach, he said: by centralization and access hierarchy they tend to re-create scarcity in the digital world, similarly to the physical world. Bodó illustrated the world in 2050 with an imagined scenario, where all works from 2010 will probably be available secured by unbreakable DRM. In this world, when no marketing is behind a product (it is not in the 20 percent), and commons-based networks (like SLP) are shut down, our knowledge, our common experience will shrink. Culture is a common good – he finished his talk.

Bottom line
Zoltán Hornák, INDICARE project member from SEARCH concluded the day. Since the workshop moved along different stream, each related to consumer aspects, the conclusions he drew from the whole day’s presentations and programme were rather diverse.

From the surveys we can learn that there is a clear demand from consumers to obtain content, even paid content, however, if consumers consider the offerings unfair, they will not go with them, and choose alternative channels. Furthermore, consumer expectations of traditional usages must be supported to create viable DRM systems.

In the accessibility session we could learn about the difficulties that blind or other disabled people may face when accessing even unprotected content, and also the controversies of DRM and accessibility. And although nowadays accessibility of content and DRM can work together, we must take care that in the digital world, a world that we can design from the basics, we do not recreate the barriers that are present for some people in the physical world.

The content providers emphasised that DRM helps them to know their consumer and create new business models, while consumer rights experts doubted this statement. From the rights session we learned that consumers are not in a very bad position after all, because in some countries doing "things in the grey", like downloading or freeing DRM-protected content is not illegal according to law, and even if it is forbidden, if judges do not enforce it, code does not have much effect. In any case, informing consumers about rights in a clear and understandable manner is a very important issue.

At the end of the workshop we could hear about two consumer initiatives, one of which tried to work out a better, interoperable and thus for the consumers more acceptable, DRM system, and the other completely rejected DRM and tried to create an (under)world without DRM.

My personal conclusion from the workshop was: consumers, and their wishes must not be neglected any more!


About the author: Kristóf Kerényi is a researcher at Budapest University of Technology and Economics in the SEARCH Laboratory. His interests include mobile and wireless IT security, as well as technological aspects of DRM. He received a MSc in computer science from BUTE. Contact:

Status: first posted 01/03/06; licensed under Creative Commons; included in the INDICARE Monitor of February 2006