The Digital Media Manifesto



L. Chiariglione


Rationale for the Digital Media Project




Digital Technologies have spawned huge and profitable industries, like IT, micro-electronics and digital communication. They have also been employed for audio and audio-visual media, yielding such formats as CD and DVD. The Digital Media experience enabled by combinations of PC, media compression, digital networks and protocols like P2P has enticed end users with many more offerings than CD and DVD. User satisfaction notwithstanding, it is a fact that most business models for innovative Digital Media have been unprofitable or are being challenged in the courts.

Today, instead of producing successful business cases and user satisfaction, as do other digital technology-driven industries, Digital Media is in a phase of stagnation with only rare cases of profitable and legitimate businesses offering a good user experience. Established media companies respond with law suits against those who infringe on their rights and with legislative lobbying to request limitations on the scope of traditional user rights and privacy. Technology companies offer DRM solutions, but these contain features that do not satisfy existing business players, arouse concern in new players and are opposed by user associations because they restrict traditional user rights and privacy.

So far, efforts to break the Digital Media stalemate have failed because efforts have been fragmented, stemming from beliefs that law alone or technology alone could do the job. A synergistic course of action on both the legislative and technological fronts is needed.

  1. On the policy and legal side, new policies should be determined and legacy policies should be revised, such as:
    • Ensure basic user rights in the digital space as traditionally enjoyed by end users;
    • Phase out legislative compensation from presumed misuses of recording equipment and media that remove incentives to make a major overhaul because money comes anyway;
    • Accelerate broadband access deployment, both a cause and an effect of offers of legitimate content on the network;
    • Revise standardisation and licensing processes because of their present inadequacy to deal with the burgeoning field of Digital Media.
  2. On the technical side, a DRM platform should be designed offering the following main features:
    • Technical ability to access the platform by different value-chain players (in practice actual access may depend on specific business agreements);
    • Technical support to traditional rights of end users (individual legislations will determine which of those rights are mandated);
    • Technical possibility to access services in a service provider-independent way, for example by using a single type of end-user device available in the open market from multiple manufacturers;
    • Existence of conformance assessment criteria at the legal, business and technical levels, enabling value-chain players to pursue their separate businesses on the platform with the greatest mutual advantage.

The Digital Media Manifesto makes specific proposals for an organisation – called the Digital Media Project – to execute the above actions.