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Copyright - Request for help - What are technical blocks?

From: Ufficio Esteri <inter@uiciechi.it>
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 15:58:53 +0100
Message-ID: <011b01bfa946$9d54f9e0$7100a8c0@nuttall>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Ref: Comeu 613

18 April 2000

Dear Friends,

Please find below a request for help from the Chair of the European Blind Union (EBU) Working Group on Copyright, Mr David Mann. If you have any ideas that could prove useful, please send them directly to Mr Mann at DMANN@rnib.org.uk.

Thanking you in advance for your kind co-operation, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Rodolfo Cattani
EBU Commission for Liaising with the EU



A Request for Help from David Mann


The purpose of this draft paper is to ask colleagues for assistance in the preparation of a briefing note on the issue of "technical blocks".


Debate around the draft European directive on copyright has increasingly focussed on the issue of "technical blocks".  Rights holders want to be able to incorporate software into their products which would either prevent any copying at all or allow only one copy to be made.  This, they argue, is a legitimate means of preventing illicit reproduction.  Such blocks are already available for CD's and digital video discs.

However, there is the danger that a technical block could also limit the activities of groups benefiting from a legal exception to copyright.  The copyright barrier could be replaced by the technological barrier.  

The directive would oblige member states to combat the use of any means of circumventing these blocks - in other words to fight piracy.  However, there is also provision in the current version of the text to allow beneficiaries of copyright exceptions to circumvent blocks.  The wording of the relevant clauses is the subject of intense debate.

In putting forward the case for blind and partially sighted people, it is relatively straightforward to assert the principle that rights holders should not be able to override through technological measures exceptions to copyright law granted by legislators.  It is more difficult to give concrete examples of what one means.

In order to put the case effectively to politicians, civil servants and rights holders, I need specific examples of what I mean.


Some of the examples which have come to my pre-Internet mind set involve practices such as portable document format which are not actually designed as ways of protecting copyright at all, but which can, nonetheless, create barriers.

Ideally, my examples would range over situations where visually impaired individsuals and transcription agencies ight want to access text either through screen readers or in order to produce braille, large print, etc.

My own initial suggestions are set out below.  I would be extremely grateful if colleagues could:-

* Add instances of their own;

* Provide illustrations of the scenarios I have outlined.

* Tell me that particular examples are invalid.

I need examples of measures that can be applied to material on disk and equally examples relating to material accessible over the Internet.

1.   Material available only or most economically on the Web, where Web pages designed in such a way as to deny access to screen reading technology used by visually impaired people.

2.   Material available only or most economically over the Web in a "read-only" format, irrespective of whether you pay or not, which is not accessible using screen reading technology and/or cannot be manipulated, e.g. portable document format (pdf).

3.   Material on a disk incorporating technology which does not permit any digital copying.

4. Material on a disk incorporating technology which permits one digital copy, but no more, and that cannot be manipulated.  This might include video that could not have audio description added.

5.   Situations in which one can only access the graphic representation of a page, and cannot get to the text underneath it.  This is like a shell put over the text, and is used in digital rights management.


I would appreciate help by Easter.  Thanks.
Received on Tuesday, 18 April 2000 09:53:51 UTC

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