INDICARE was invited by the European Commission to the workshop "Towards reaching consensus on Digital Rights Management" held in Brussels on the 6th of April, 2005. The aim was "to share the result of the informal public consultation and the outcome of the High Level Group, and where possible to further explore ways to reach consensus on DRM" (European Commission 2005). Carsten Orwat, co-ordinator of project INDICARE, gave a presentation titled "Analysis of consumers’ issues and paths for concrete approaches" which is available online like the other presentations (European Commission 2005; Orwat 2005).

This month INDICARE made available a compilation of all INDICARE Monitor issues of the first year 2004/2005 in a single volume. In a corresponding INDICARE article we briefly present this publication adding a bit of hindsight and a bit of foresight.

About this issue
When we posted our call for papers for this issue on "science, higher education, and libraries" to an e-mail list of librarians the immediate reply was that DRM has no business in this field at all because of its character as a space of academic freedom. Open Access would be the appropriate answer (cf. INETBIB 2005). The four thematic articles we present in this special issue all recognize the special status of this field, however the authors come to a rather different conclusion about the role of DRM in there. In other words, sympathy for the rights of creators and cultural institutions like libraries makes them advocate prudently for a cautious use of DRM systems in these areas.

The use of DRM technology in this field need not necessarily be a fall from grace of mankind.

  • First it seems to be often overlooked that the expression of rights is not per se the enforcement of rights, and that well received approaches like Creative Commons are in first place this: a transparent expression of rights. Therefore, talking about CC is also talking about DRM.

  • Second, what DRM technology is and what it is not depends. For example, safeguarding integrity and authenticity of documents is safeguarding rights of creators and consumers. Technologies guaranteeing integrity and authenticity such as digital signatures or watermarks are in this sense contingent. A one man's security technology is another man's DRM technology.

  • Third, in some cases DRM systems may indeed be a solution to leverage fair use exemptions. In the library context these include the right to lend, the right to preserve, the right to supply documents to third parties, the right to share.

Taking DRM as a béte noir – to use the expression of Richard Poynder here – is apparently not the best approach to cope with the complexity of legal, economic and technical IPR matters. Reducing complexity may correspond to the logics of social movements facing intransigent opponents, but a balanced approach it ain't.

In this issue Marieke Guy and Brian Kelly, UKOLN, Bath, discuss the use of CC for digital libraries presenting the case of a project funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) in the UK. Their conclusion is that comprehensible expression of rights is of great benefit, and that CC licences are about removing the barriers to sharing information.

Next, Richard Poynder, a freelance journalist and an expert in digital assets, investigates the role of digital rights management in Open Access. He starts where Marieke Guy and Brian Kelly had ended, stating that inserting machine-readable rights information into digital content like CC (in order to control how it is used) is "digital rights management". He can show that DRM, understood as a "set of tools to help creators maximise usage of their work" could support the Open Access movement especially with respect to the "green road" of OA, i.e. "self-archiving" of papers which are published by traditional commercial journal publishers.

Pasi Tyrväinen writes about fair use licensing in a library context. He claims that it is possible to support library exemptions and still maintain a high level of privacy with DRM systems. DRM systems are presented in his model as an enabler of the legal library exemptions. It is particularly interesting to see how – given an appropriate design of DRM systems – new business models may emerge from a closer interaction of public institutions and publishers. Libraries as superdistributors is just one of the ideas Pasi Tyrväinen puts forward in the three scenarios outlines.

Karen Coyle, a well known consultant in the library field, focuses her article on the role of digital rights management with respect to one particular library function, namely lending. She discusses primarily the state of the art in lending electronic books and audio books. Her conclusion is that for libraries to manage and lend published materials in digital formats some controls are required. She also concludes that digital products lead to new relationships between publishers and libraries involving DRM systems. Today however as she points out there are important issues not yet solved with respect to acquisition and lending of digital materials. To achieve a win-win situation, both, libraries and publishers, have still to learn.

Out of focus, but with high relevance for the role of DRM in the preservation of cultural heritage, Michael Rader, ITAS, investigates the reissue of historical recordings. The preservation of the audio heritage is largely being undertaken by small enterprises who invest a lot in audio restoration. Reissues of historical material have generally not been protected against copying although such work is protected as intellectual property and although piracy for commercial purposes is significant. This brings in DRMs as an option to stop abuse. Studying a particular case, Michael Rader concludes that watermarks might be the best solution not to restrict consumer rights on the one hand and to facilitate the detection of “pirated” works on the other hand.

Last not least, we can include again comments on the INDICARE state of the art report. This time Manon Ress, director information society projects at CPTech (a non-profit organisation) hints particularly to the international dimension of DRM and the concerns of developing countries in this respect.

Bottom line
In the next issue of the INDCARE Monitor we will continue the focus theme addressing further issues like "Science Commons", DRM and document supply centres, or DRM and preservation. If you feel stimulated to get involved in the debate about DRM in the field of "science, higher education, and libraries" feel free to propose a topic and to write for the INDICARE Monitor about it. The CfP with a list of topics we find relevant is still available (see INDICARE CfP 2005).


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,

Status: first posted 29/04/05; licensed under Creative Commons