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Digital rights management and the breakdown of social norms.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2003
<mark>Journal</mark>First Monday
Issue number11
<mark>Original language</mark>English


At the centre of the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is a long history of political bargains struck between private rights to reward and the social benefit of information/knowledge diffusion. The historical dynamic of politics in this policy area has been to expand the rights of owners while circumscribing the public realm of information and knowledge. In recent decades the public domain has become merely a residual, all that is left when all other rights (as constructed by IPRs) have been exercised. The advent of digital rights management (DRM) technologies has disturbed a reasonably legitimate politico-legal settlement over "fair use," challenging the existing balance between the rights of "creators" and the interests of users. The breakdown of the norms underpinning IPRs has prompted renewed debate regarding their legitimacy. Although it is technological change that has enhanced not only the ability to copy but also the potential to control the distribution of content, this paper suggests that this argument will not be won or lost in the realm of technology. Rather, new technologies return the question of the control of knowledge and information (content) to the realm of politics.