As an initial matter, it seems like DRM is not incompatible with at least the distributional goal of Open Access. Getting more works of scholarship onto the network to reach where physical copies don’t is a big part of why people care about Open Access, even if they don’t especially care about copyright reform in general. Framed as “getting knowledge to those who wouldn’t otherwise have it”, Open Access has more intuitive appeal, and DRM would seem to help in this effort by alleviating some copyright holders’ fears of market substitution. Similar to “freemium” web services like Flickr, the copyright holder can make their money selling individual rights and privileges rather than bundling them with the basic access right.
The problem with this idea, beyond the basic “scraps from the table” opinion of OA users it implies, is that this DRM that will segment a market in rich countries may obliterate the market in poor countries. If you have a PDF that can’t be printed, but you can only afford to access a computer once a month for a few minutes, your access to that work is nominal at best. It may be enough for reference works and such, but it’s hardly living up to the ideals of Open Access, and we might want to find something else to call it.
I’m obviously only touching the tip of the iceberg here, and probably others have covered this ground before, but the blog is for the musings, no?
UPDATE: as always, Google shows how well-trod the ground is, e.g. The role of digital rights management in Open Access
evan :: Apr.11.2007 :: Notions :: 1 Comment »