Digital rights debates set at Seybold conference

Issues surrounding Digital Rights Management (DRM) and piracy protection take center stage this week at the annual Seybold conference. This year's gathering of electronic publishing and media professionals is expected to draw about 35,000 attendees to San Francisco's Moscone Center for the weeklong conference.

DRM refers to the methods and means employed to define, protect and license the intellectual property rights in the digital world. The controversy has arisen over issues of 'fair use' of this content and consumers' rights to copy and share digital files.

Event organizers have scheduled a Digital Rights Management Day: Preventing Piracy and Leveraging Premium Content Online (tomorrow, September 10, 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.). And in a split session entitled ''The Antipiracy Wars,'' Bill Rosenblatt, president, GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies, and two panels of experts are scheduled to discuss issues surrounding problems and solutions, DRM case studies and strategies for applying the technology to corporate enterprises and publishers.

The most controversial issue in the DRM debate, according to Rosenblatt, is the pressure from industry and government groups to require rights management systems to be built into devices like computers and televisions, which consumer groups argue could make legitimate uses more difficult or even impossible. Companies like Apple, Intel and others have been vocal in their insistence that rights management is a marketplace issue and that technology products should not become the enforcer of licensing and copyright regulations.

''The debate in Congress over legislation is now primarily about requiring copy-protection features in all digital media devices,'' Rosenblatt said recently. ''Several pending bills would mandate their inclusion in all digital media rendering devices, and would allow media firms virtually free reign in hacking into Internet servers suspected of harboring pirated material. Technology organizations become indignant at these pieces of legislation, calling them unfair constraints on innovation and consumer choice; meanwhile, legal experts wonder whether DRM technology can really coexist with the copyright laws in their current form.''

This year's conference runs from September 9-12. Keynote speakers scheduled for this year's show include Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing at Apple Computer, and Shantanu Narayen, executive vice president of worldwide product marketing and development for Adobe Systems.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at


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