Document DRM, DCMA & EUCD

The EU Copyright Directive – how does it affect publishers?

The European Copyright Directive (EUCD) sets new copyright regulations to help protect IPR.  Is it enough however to protect documents and other published information or is document DRM the way forward for Publishers?

The European Copyright Directive (EUCD), focused on digital information, has just been announced, setting new regulations in copyright not addressed in previous regulation such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) developed by the USA.  It has implications for publishers who have information providers that upload copyright content to their web sites but does not appear to affect traditional publishers using DRM technologies to protect their IPR.

The DCMA and copyright protection

DCMA came to life on 26 October 1998.  It was introduced in the United States to strengthen copyright controls over digitised works as a step on from the physical world.  It meant for the first time that copyright owners could issue take-down notices to web site owners displaying their copyright works, without having to sue in the Courts.  It also meant that it was an offence to create tools for circumventing copyright controls, or even investigating the quality and adequacy of the protection techniques.

Why was this?  It came about because both big media and smaller publishers wanted to see better returns on their copyright documents – digital information.  Once material had been pirated it was almost impossible to stop it being distributed for nothing.  It did not deal specifically with confidential documents although some copyright rights can be used as legal protections.

There were many arguments over economics and a little thought about small providers, but the essence was that big players with deep pockets would continue to sue and smaller players would have to be happy with issuing take-down notices cheaply and effectively through web site owners and ISPs.

The EUCD and copyright protection

20 years after DCMA, the EU have brought forward their own extended approach to increase the ability to take action across member state boundaries, to allow wider use of copyright material for education, research, cultural heritage and disability through (so called) exceptions, fair rules of the game for a better functioning copyright marketplace, which stimulates creation of high-quality content.

This is all about economics – aimed at improving the balance of negotiations between online creators and content publishers so that content creators benefit from other derived income, such as advertising revenues, which content publishers currently benefit from but the creators do not.  This will involve adopting new methods of financial monitoring and reporting by the big publishing platforms, and no doubt create a new battle for standards that will be incompatible, if and when they are implemented.

The EU Directive is focused on large content providers providing access to mass markets consuming copyright content, and having publishers agree on the remuneration from services storing and giving access to large amounts of copyright protected content that is uploaded by platform users.  The proposal does not in any way limit the use of content under copyright exceptions (e.g. education, research) or free speech (e.g. parody and memes) on user-generated content platforms.

EUCD implications for Publishers

So the Directive is focused on large content publishers and their relationship(s) with content providers uploading copyright materials into publisher’s systems (so YouTube is caught by the Directive but Wikipedia is not) and hyperlinks are largely outside the scope.  Be aware that content referenced by links might be included if it is a copyright work.  However, this does not affect any creators not using large content publishers to sell/advertise/distribute/fulfill their documents and information.

And that has implications for companies publishing training courses, product manuals, high value reports, confidential internal documentation and so on.  These are organizations who typically do not want to upload their content into online platforms, but prefer to deal directly with their customers/users and have no desire to have their copyright content publicly distributed and become part of the right to use for education and private study.  In fact the education sector is a major publisher itself of educational materials which it does not wish to become freely available for personal study because they sell course content and documentation.

What is going to prove interesting is that DRM suppliers such as Locklizard are well positioned to support the DRM needs of these publishing industries, training industries, and in fact any industry that does not want to be republished on content publishing platforms because their specific interest is not being part of the Copyright Directive regulated sector.  This is because these industries are not offering platforms for content creators to upload their own works into.

Locklizard expect to see more developments taking place as more publishing industries invest in document DRM class solutions and large content publishers decide how to address the controls they will need to carry out financial analyses on copyright content displayed, used for advertising and sold.  The EUCD has its main focus on content aggregators and distributors and will have little effect on existing publishers selling content or distributing proprietary materials.

Why Document DRM?

Document DRM provides businesses with greater protection and control over their IPR.  This is because information is encrypted and digitally controlled rather than relying on the law to enforce copyright.  In addition to stopping unauthorized distribution and sharing, Publishers can decide where protected content can be viewed, how long it can be viewed for, whether it can be printed, see how it is being used (logging use) and revoke access when required.

The document DRM controls that are emerging as ‘standards’ required for modern document protection include restricting access by location, by date or time, by device rather than relying on user credentials, as well as preventing making non-DRM protected copies of protected documents.

Document DRM also addresses copying by other means with active controls to prevent unauthorized use of content:

  • stopping sharing by locking document use to only authorized devices
  • stopping Print Screen or screen grabbing
  • stopping editing
  • stopping copy and paste
  • stopping printing
  • ability to add dynamic watermarks that disclose the source of unauthorised activity

So for the majority of industries, document DRM remains the most appropriate way forward for protecting IPR and copyright works.