Digital Rights Management


Digital Rights Management (DRM) is "any technology used to protect the interests of owners of content and services (such as copyright owners). Typically, authorized recipients or users must acquire a license in order to consume the protected material—files, music, movies—according to the rights or business rules set by the content owner."(1)

What This Means for Consumers:

  • You try to bring up a DVD movie but before it starts, you come to a problem where you cannot get rid of advertisements. So you try to past forward them, but your recorder does not respond at all.
  • You are allowed to play your new CD at home on your stereo system, yet when you put it into your CD drive on your Macintosh computer in class, the CD does not work. The machine goes on to crash and refuses to work with you. The only way to remove the disk is if if you force it out yourself.
  • You try to reinstall a software on your computer that you just got, but it comes up in a "trial mode". You cannot reinstall it unless you pay for the product again.
  • You want to time-shift a TV program for later viewing, but your digital video recorder detects a signal known as the broadcast flag in the program and won't record it.
  • You buy an e-book and discover you can read it on-screen but can't print a chapter, even though the book is by Dickens and entered the public domain more than a century ago.

In each of these scenarios, you've run headlong into digital rights management (DRM). So far, such measures have halted few of us in our tracks. But in the future, as DRM becomes increasingly widespread, situations like those mentioned above may be all too common. Here we explain what DRM is about, how it's done, and what the future is likely to hold.

Depending on what products you use and how you intend to use them, you may or may not see a great impact from DRM—at first. But you may begin to feel that DRM has gone too far as restrictions become tighter, blocking you from doing things you feel you have a right to do or violating your privacy by insisting you identify yourself before you do them, or extracting more money from you before you proceed. It's important that you as a consumer keep informed about DRM. That way, you can use your feet, your wallet, and your vote to ensure that the roadblocks imposed by DRM don't keep you from going where you want to go.
external image DRM.jpg


Microsoft has licensed Windows Media DRM and partnered with numerous industry-leading content providers, service providers, solution providers, application developers, hardware manufacturers, and processor companies to offer the best digital media solutions.

See the following for more information on these companies.
The following are some of the companies that protect their content files using Windows Media Rights Manager.
BMG Entertaiment
EMI Recorded Music
Lionsgate Films Entertainment
Sony Music Entertainment
Universal Music Group
Warner Music Group Yahoo Music Group

external image drmprocess.gif


DRM works in many ways, depending on the medium and the types of restrictions the publisher wishes to impose. We can't possibly cover all of the techniques, but here's an overview of the technologies used in DRM systems.

Old-fashioned copy protection, such as that used in the original Lotus 1,2, 3 spreadsheet program, makes floppy disks uncopyable by recording them in ways that an ordinary floppy disk drive can't duplicate. Many such systems require that a key usually a special floppy disk or a dongle that attaches to a serial, parallel, or USB port; be present before the software will run.

Such schemes are generally not objectionable to users as long as the keys aren't fragile or likely to be damaged or destroyed (as was the case with the Lotus floppy disks). These schemes are easily broken, however, and in the early days of computing, quite a number of companies specialized in providing workarounds for them. (As we'll explain shortly, such workaround products are now illegal to manufacture or to own, even if you're legitimately concerned that a key might be destroyed.)

More recent software copy protection mechanisms, such as Macrovision's SafeCast and Microsoft Product Activation for Windows and Office, rely on the Internet, allowing machines to ask permission from a central server before installing or running software. There's usually a mechanism, which lets users who don't have Internet access obtain keys by phone. Some let you use a product for a short period, but they will block access if you don't register with the company within a few days or weeks.




1. Microsoft's Definition of DRM
2. PC mag article
3. software article
4. Fair Use and DRM
5. Is DRM Good or Bad?