There has been a lot of talk about ensuring the position of the end users of digital equipment. In its report on digital music the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy considers technical compatibility important to ensure user friendliness. The danger with standards that are too strictly defined may be the creation of unnecessary restrictions on use or the impeding of development in the field.
The European Consumers' Organization (BEUC) has published basic principles concerning consumers' digital rights. The Finnish Consumer Agency believes these can also be applied in Finland.
The principles lists eight basic rights including the following:
Right to make back-up copies.
Right to use content on different devices.
Right to change content so it can be used in another format and to decide on the information supplied regarding the use of content.
In the opinion of the Consumer Agency, these basic principles are issues that should be made part of the digital environment framework in copyright and other legislation.
Discussion has focused most on compatibility between music and devices.
The Consumer Agency and other European authorities and organizations have conducted negotiations with Apple iTunes concerning its contract terms. Attention has also been paid to traditional matters such as responsibility for errors and the right to alter contract terms.
In addition the Consumer Agency and organizations in other countries have held talks with representatives of the recording industry.
Recently the record company EMI announced that its artists' music files would be available from iTunes without digital rights management protection so that they could be used on any player. This is a good start and the Consumer Agency will continue negotiations on this matter in cooperation with other European actors.
All of consumers' expectations regarding the compatibility of products cannot be met. Businesses must provide clear information concerning how consumers can use devices and content, however.
The Consumer Agency believes that consumers should have the right to choose what device they want to use to play music they have purchased legally, without unnecessary restrictions being set in contract terms or by technical methods.
The Consumer Agency has also dealt with other matters regarding copyright in a statement that it sent to the Ministry of Education on the evaluation of copyright and the development of copyright legislation.
www.beuc.eu: Consumers Digital Rights
OECD, Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy: Digital Broadband Content: Music(www.oecd.org/sti/digitalcontent)