24 October 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Portuguese law bans DRM for public domain works

Portugal has passed a new law banning the use of digital rights management (DRM) security software on public domain media and government works.

The law will allow libraries and archives to access or preserve public domain and government works, without the threat of DRM. Any application of DRM to such a work will be illegal and users will be allowed to bypass it.

It will also allow users to circumvent DRM on copyrighted works to exercise normal copyright exceptions, such as news reporting, teaching and education and in quotation.

On top of this, users will be allowed to circumvent DRM where it has been applied to works without the authorisation of a copyright holder, for example if a licensee such as Spotify distributes a musical work over its streaming service.

In a blog post, Jeremy Malcolm, senior global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, explained that the new law shows “just how much flexibility countries have to craft laws on DRM that strike a fairer balance between users and copyright holders—even if, like Portugal, those countries have international obligations that require them to have anti-circumvention laws”.

“We applaud Portugal for recognizing the harmful effects that DRM has access to knowledge and information, and we hope that these amendments will provide a model for other countries wishing to make a similar stand for users' rights,” he said.

However, Malcolm commented that the law did nothing to address the ban on creating or distributing circumvention devices.

He said: “This means that although users are now authorized to bypass DRM in more cases than before, they're on their own when it comes to accomplishing this.”

“The amendments ought to have established clear exceptions authorizing the development and distribution of circumvention tools that have lawful uses, rather than leaving users to gain access to such tools through legally murky channels.”

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