Monday, 6 February 2012

Digital Rights Management (DRM) – And the Debate Goes On!

Digital Rights Management (DRM) has become a controversial issue amongst content providers and the users. For some, DRM is the method to control piracy while others believe there’s a major difference between piracy and content sharing that content providers should understand.

DRM is an access control technology that is being used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, and copyright holders in order to limit the use of digital content. Companies like AOL, Apple Inc., BBC, Microsoft, Amazon, and Sony are using this access control technology. It restricts the consumer from using a specific hardware with the device, run other software on the device, or even copy or convert the digital content to other formats.

Examples of DRM:

  • A company can set its servers to block sensitive email from being forwarded by employees.
  • There might be a restricted access to copying and printing of digital content on an e-book server because of the constraints set by the copyright holders of the content.
  • You might get a DVD with software that restricts you from copying the content or have number of copies restrictions.
  • A DRM enabled mobile handset or tablet will restrict you from transferring files to & from other devices.
With the rapid advancement in digital technology, digital content is now readily available to everyone. But, content owners are facing difficulties to protect their intellect property & commercial rights. It is believed that DRM not only helps copyright owners fight the copyright infringement online but also ensures continue revenue streaming in.

It is majorly the distribution of digital content over the Internet & through file-sharing websites that has made content owners opt for DRM technology. For instant, if somebody downloads an MP3 file of a copyright song from a free website instead of buying the CD, the music company that owns the copyright of song does not get rewarded. If we talk about movie industry only, it is estimated that it suffers from an annual revenue loss of $5billion because of illegal distribution of DVD content. Since it is impractical for the copyright owners to sue every individual downloading the copyright content illegally, they are opting for DRM to have control over digital content.

  • The first generation DRM software merely had control over content copying. It focused on the security and encryption of content so that the content is distributed among people who pay for it.
  • Second generation DRM has control over content viewing, copying, printing, altering, and other things that could hamper the privacy of the digital content.
The main purpose of introducing DRM was to stop copyright infringement. However, the technology has proven to be not-so-effective for this purpose. If you want to distribute a DRM free file, all you need to do is use software that can remove the DRM from the file. Or if somebody has acquired the DRM free version of that file, he/she can upload it on the Internet for sharing with everybody.

At many places, all DRM does is, cause inconvenience for the consumer. There are number of reasons that make DRM an annoying technology for users. Let’s take the example of e-books:

If you are an e-book reader, DRM can lock the book to a particular device. Supposedly, you have bought a book for your Nook from Barnes&Noble and then purchased a Kindle, you will not be able to read that e-book on Kindle. You will be again required to purchase the e-book for Kindle.

There have been cases where an e-book store or a DRM provider has shut-down his business. It means, you will not be able to read those e-books as the files cannot be authorized against the DRM server. A similar thing happened in music industry, when Yahoo! Music was shut down.

Common DRM Techniques Followed:

Restrictive Licensing Agreement – The agreement controls the access to digital material, copyright material, and public domain. You can also find some restrictive licensed agreement when you enter a particular website or download software.

Encryption, scrambling of expressive material, or embedding a tag – The technology is meant to control the access as well as reproduction of online information.
So, do you think that DRM should be employed at all? Does it help content owners fight against piracy? Well! Piracy is treated as the practice of making a copyrighted material available to anybody who comes along, that too for free. It is very different from casual sharing of content between people who know each other. DRM does very little to prevent piracy because it can be broken.

For many consumers, DRM methods are overly restrictive. If you buy an e-book, you end up spending around $10 and what if you switch to a new device? Will you again spend $10 to have the same e-book in your collection? There are a lot many areas where DRM architecture needs to be worked upon. At present, the technology seems to be in favor of content owners but what about the people who buy the digital content but find themselves surrounded by lot many obligations & restrictions? It is necessary to introduce a few amendments in order to make DRM technology successful and universally acceptable.

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1 comment:

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