Digital rights management is a "felony", delegates at the second day of a UNESCO conference on digital books heard, as proponents for the liberalisation of copyright laws clashed with those favouring more traditional intellectual property protection.
Speaking at The Book Tomorrow: The Future of the Written Word in Monza, Italy, Richard Stallman, president of the Boston-based Free Software Foundation and founder of the "copyleft" movement, which calls for rights holders to surrender some copyright to enable others to modify their work and distribute it for free, said copyright was, in fact, not protection, but restriction. He said: "Copyleft was invented to make freedom in copyright an inalienable right. We must end the war on sharing."
He added: "DRM, or digital ‘restriction’ management, is a malicious conspiracy, and any company that uses it should be charged with a felony."
However, Anne Bergman-Tahon, president of the Federation of European Publishers, said: "While we may need to look at the evolution of copyright, there must be protection for authors and publishers. Only one in 10 books makes a profit. We must have a viable marketplace."
Copyright was also the main topic in the day’s opening plenary session. Esther Wojcicki, vice-chairman of Creative Commons, argued current copyright law of death plus 70 years "ties up culture" by making many works unavailable. She added: "Copyright is not about protecting authors, it protects institutions, corporations and their existing business models."
A new copyright model was needed, Wojcicki said, to combat the digital is free, "I’ll take that" culture of young people. That model must be built on training about copyright, as "regulation just doesn’t work".
Yngve Slettholm, vice-chair of the International Federation for Reproduction Right argued protecting authors' ability to make a living from their work was vital. He said: "Authors’ rights are not the problem, they are the solution." He added: "There will be, however, adjustments in legislation. The internet is in its infancy and copyright will change. As we’ve seen in other new technologies like the photocopier, for example, the technology changes first, the solutions come later."