C&T 2010 Conference Recap, Pt. 2

The rest of the presentations from Copyright and Technology 2010 have been uploaded onto SlideShare.  These include the presentations from Jude Umeh’s panel on the Future of DRM as well as the slides of Ben Marks of the law firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges on news publishing, Hot News Misappropriation, and Fair Use.

We expect to be able to offer some video of the conference soon.

Meanwhile, we would love to have your input on the timeframe and location for the next Copyright and Technology conference: please take a moment to vote on the two poll questions.  Thanks.

2 comments

  1. Bill, congratulations on what appears to have been a great conference!

    I had an additional thought on Slide 17 (“Technology Innovation Hampered”) of your opening remarks, http://bit.ly/byL1C8

    Based on my own experience as an early DRM researcher and entrepreneur, I would say that early (ca. 1995-2000) innovation by academia and industry was hampered by a distinct lack of openness. This was a weird period when a number of companies were developing technologies, nobody was talking specifics, and certain 800-lb guerrillas of the field were opening threatening others with the pervasiveness of their patent… um… applications.

    I speak from experience: In Oct 1995 as a Ph.D. candidate and days away from co-founding NetRights, I introduced myself to a certain industry leader at Internet World; the third sentence out of his mouth was how proud he was of his company’s IP, especially that they had just filed “the largest patent, ever…” (~900 claims), and that I was unlikely to have come up with anything they hadn’t thought of. Now isn’t that special…

    As you point out, in the early days there was very little actual research being done on DRM, and certainly nothing like what Ross Anderson was doing w.r.t. systematically finding vulnerabilities in trusted hardware, etc. Note there were few if any venues for peer-reviewed publication in the field, however, especially in the early days. You speak of it not being “sexy”; I think this is part of it.

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for your very interesting comment.

    As far as “sexy” is concerned, I knew plenty of big companies and VCs who were interested in DRM around the late 90s — perhaps the period just after you sold NetRights to Digimarc, while I was at Sun doing market development in this area. Remember that it had to have been “sexy” for the company we aren’t naming to have had a very successful IPO in 1999. So, there was plenty of R&D being done around DRM during that period, though it happened in the private sector, not academia or research labs (other than Xerox PARC), and by plenty of startups other than the one we aren’t naming. Of course, when the bubble burst, many of these companies ceased operations (and the company we aren’t naming was taken private).

    I really think that the RIAA’s threats against Ed Felten were a catalyzing moment in the history of DRM research. It basically fell off a cliff in the US after that. Researchers were quite naturally scared of lawsuits and decided they had better things to do; others decided that the topic was evil in solidarity with their comrade and/or in protest against the big evil content behemoths. I did my own time in graduate school in the late 80s through early 90s and saw the rise of “political correctness” after the SDI (Star Wars) funding frenzy exposed rampant hypocrisy among some academic computer science and engineering researchers.

    As I said during my talk last week but did not put on the slides: if you do a search on DRM and related topics on something like IEEE Xplore, you find that virtually all recent research comes out of Asia-Pacific, with most of the rest coming out of Europe.

    Finally, I think the “patent overhang” issue today manifests itself in monetary rather than research terms. The only area where I have heard concern expressed about DRM patent overhang is in the mobile arena around OMA DRM, but this boils down to a question of money (the market) rather than any of the other three Lessig factors.

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