We've been seeing a growing realization about the clear conflicts between copyright and freedom of expression -- an issue that has often been brushed aside, but in a world where nearly all communication suddenly is covered by copyright, it becomes a much bigger issue. Michael Scott
points us to a UK-based study that doesn't focus on copyright
and free expression specifically, but on DRM and how it limits free expression
in the UK. While this may not seem directly
relevant to copyright law, it absolutely is, especially with the push for global laws that make any circumvention of DRM -- even if for legal uses -- illegal. As such, DRM that prevents freedom of expression is using copyright law to back that up, which can be a violation of First Amendment rights (yes, I recognize the First Amendment is a US issue, and this study is in the UK, but it's likely the results of the study apply to the US as well).
The study says that there hasn't been a catastrophic blockage of free expression, but clearly some had occurred, even though technology measures could
have allowed the expression without seriously compromising the purpose of the DRM. More importantly, the study found that those who were stymied from performing legal
expression due to DRM rarely used mechanisms provided by UK law to complain. This isn't that surprising, but it does make an important point: gov't officials are probably unaware of how much legal activity is stifled due to DRM, backed via gov't enforcement of copyright laws. While there are many other areas of study to be done around these issues, this is a worthwhile study in looking at how copyright and free expression can conflict.