Knowledge Rights 21 Programme: CREATe to Study the impact of Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) on beneficiaries of copyright exceptions: research and preservation

CREATe, the UK Centre for the Regulation of the Creative Economy, is undertaking new research funded by the Knowledge Rights 21 (KR21) Programme. This research aims to identify and measure the impacts of Technological Protection Measures (TPMs), in particular as concerns how far they impede the rights to research and education.

While exceptions to copyright exist in Europe and elsewhere to enable beneficial uses such as research and preservation, the legal status and impact of TPMs on these activities remain broadly unclear. Technological protection measures, designed to control the way in which users access digital content, override lawful activities granted by the legislator, with those removing or circumventing them facing penalties without specific authorisation. 

Despite provisions in the law to ensure that TPMs cannot be used to prevent legitimate uses, there remains relatively little information as to how they apply in reality, and the challenges and frustrations felt by those who encounter them. 

This research, being conducted between December 2023 and May 2024, therefore has the following aims:

  1. understand the status of TPMs and their relationship to exceptions in EU Member States and other jurisdictions;
  2. survey researchers and research organisations about the challenges encountered due to TPMs and the possibility of circumventing them; and, 
  3. develop economic evidence on the overall welfare effects of TPMs and their ramifications on access to knowledge.

The research team undertaking this project consists of: Prof Kristofer Erickson (Principal Investigator, CREATe, University of Glasgow), Dr Marcella Favale (Sciences Po, Paris), Dr Ula Furgal (CREATe, University of Glasgow), Prof Martin Kretschmer (CREATe, University of Glasgow), Anthony Rosborough (PhD researcher, European University Institute), and Dr Victoria Stobo (Centre for Archive Studies, University of Liverpool).

What to expect

This project will produce three main outputs:

Report 1: the legal status of TPMs and circumvention mechanisms

Deliverable: The team will produce a report on the legal status of TPMs in selected European countries and other jurisdictions.

Approach: The report will include:

  • a history and typology of TPMs and a discussion of the relationship between TPMs and the enjoyment of exceptions; and,
  • the identification of relevant national authorities and processes to request the removal of TPMs.

Report 2: survey about institutional users and TPMs

Deliverable: Empirical evidence on the impact of TPMs on privileged beneficiaries of copyright exceptions is scarce. The report will provide an updated, comprehensive, cross-European comparative survey to gather evidence of how TPMs frustrate the activities of educational and research institutions and their affiliates.

Approach: CREATe will use a survey/structured interview approach to explore current practices from selected European countries. This report will also investigate the possibility for researchers to request the removal of TPMs through legal means, and the costs and challenges involved in making those requests.

Report 3: economic impacts of TPMs, a case study from video game preservation

Deliverable: The precise scope and scale of the economic effects of TPMs are not yet understood, but this work package aims to help remedy this gap with concrete evidence, notably addressing the question if TPMs present obstacles to research, education and preservation, representing an economic hindrance to productive uses

Approach: Using machine learning to analyse 25 years of development of the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) emulator project, the team will assess the quality and availability of TPM circumvention methods to provide economic evidence on welfare losses due to TPMs.

KR21’s ambition

With CREATe spearheading this important project, we will gain vital insights into the interplay between copyright exceptions, which facilitate crucial activities like research and preservation, and the often ambiguous legal landscape surrounding TPMs. These findings are intended to guide policy and regulatory decisions that shape the future of knowledge access and copyright dynamics within the European context and beyond.

About CREATe

CREATe is the UK Centre for Regulation of the Creative Economy. Established in 2012, the centre is based at the University of Glasgow. Its focus is on the regulation of creativity, technology and markets (intellectual property law, competition law, information and technology law). From 2020 to 2023, CREATe led the creative industries stream of a major EU H2020 research consortium: reCreating Europe – Copyright law, cultural diversity and the Digital Single Market.