Research for me FOI: Has the BL’s vision on DRM changed?

Typed with a slightly dodgy keyboard into Arcturus

In my rather unsystematic research into the use of Digital Rights Management DRM by the British Library BL I have discovered a flurry of activity in 2005/6 and almost nothing until 2009. (I shall be quoting these in my FOI request) The later versions have messages such as:

The British Library Improves Electronic Access with New DRM Platform ( )

which suggests that the BL has given in to DRM and now wishes to promote it as a public good.

It was not ever thus: in 2006 they challenged DRM (APIG = All Party Parliamentary Internet Group ):

The British Library submits evidence to APIG on DRMs ( )

With excerpts such as:

It is essential that we ensure that DRMs cannot interfere with the responsibilities of the legal deposit libraries to acquire, store, preserve and give access to digital items in perpetuity. The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 already provides for the delivery by the publisher of “a copy of any computer program and any information necessary in order to access the work”. It would be preferable if publications came without any DRM wrapping. The Act does not explicitly provide for the circumvention of a DRM in the event of harvest from the Internet by a library .


DRMs are still in their relative infancy. Any particular DRM is likely to be short-lived. Thus DRMs are not easily susceptible to legislative regulation except at a very generic level. However, there does need to be an accepted and constantly revised code of practice for the design and operation of DRMs to ensure that they cannot constrain statutory rights in the form of exceptions and limitations of copyright.


And perhaps most tellingly of all:

Finally, the British Library is a member of Share the Vision and attaches particular importance to addressing the needs of visually impaired users in the DRM world.

It looks as if the BL has lost sight of its 2006 vision and no-one in the UK (or probably global) library community cares.

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3 Responses to Research for me FOI: Has the BL’s vision on DRM changed?

  1. Henry Rzepa says:

    I would like the BL to clarify these points
    1. DRM in the Broadcast sense that we are all familiar with (BBC iPlayer) imparts finite lifetimes to the “creative materials” (7-14 days). Science has and should not have any lifetime. Why then is the digital lifetime of the BL’s SED document 14 days?
    2. The “E” of SED (secure electronic delivery) implies a digital document. Digital information is important for one reason. It can be repurposed/re-used in a context not necessarily the same as the original one. Much of our understanding of science derives from this concept. So why is the BL delivering documents where this very essence has to be immediately destroyed by by the recipient?
    Under the DOI [PMR: assumed to be FOI], I would like to see if the BL has any document which both recognizes the importance of preserving digital information, and the need to do so with STM information specifically (as opposed to content generated by the “creative industries).

  2. Ed Chamberlain says:

    Librarians have oft been opposed to DRM, this 2008 Library of Congress reportfor instance highlighting its negative implications for Digital preservation.
    We’ve failed so far in the UK because we lack a politically effective or recognised single voice (unlike the LA in the US) and because our digital preservation bodies have so far been primarily concerned with practical issues.

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