Autonomy and Morality in DRM and Anti-Circumvention Law

Burk, Dan and Gillespie, Tarleton. AUTONOMY AND MORALITY IN DRM AND ANTI-CIRCUMVENTION LAW, Triple C: Cognition, Communication, Cooperation, Vol.4, No. 2, November 2006

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper

7 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2008

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Tarleton L. Gillespie

Cornell University - Department of Communication; Microsoft Research, New England

Abstract

Digital rights management technology, or DRM, provides self-enforcing technical exclusion from pre-determined uses of informational works. Such technical exclusion may supplement or even supplant intellectual property laws. The deployment of DRM has been subsidized by laws prohibiting both disabling of technical controls and assisting others to disable technical controls. To date the public debate over deployment of DRM, has been almost entirely dominated by utilitarian arguments regarding the social costs and benefits of this technology. In this paper, we examine the moral propriety of laws endorsing and encouraging the deployment of DRM. We argue that a deontological analysis, focusing on the autonomy of information users, deserves consideration. Because DRM shifts the determination of information use from users to producers, users are denied the choice whether to engage in use or misuse of the technically protected work. State sponsorship of DRM in effect treats information users as moral incompetents, incapable of deciding the proper use of information products. This analysis militates in favor of legal penalties that recognize and encourage the exercise of autonomous choice, even by punishment of blameworthy choices, rather than the encouragement of technology that limits the autonomous choices of information users.

Keywords: intellectual property, DRM, digital rights management, copyright, autonomy, DMCA

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L. and Gillespie, Tarleton L., Autonomy and Morality in DRM and Anti-Circumvention Law. Burk, Dan and Gillespie, Tarleton. AUTONOMY AND MORALITY IN DRM AND ANTI-CIRCUMVENTION LAW, Triple C: Cognition, Communication, Cooperation, Vol.4, No. 2, November 2006 ; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1146448

Dan L. Burk (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

4500 Berkeley Place
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-9325 (Phone)

Tarleton L. Gillespie

Cornell University - Department of Communication ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

Microsoft Research, New England ( email )

One Memorial Drive, 14th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

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