Definition

digital rights management (DRM)

Digital rights management (DRM) is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they've purchased. DRM products were developed in response to the rapid increase in online piracy of commercially marketed material, which proliferated through the widespread use of peer-to-peer file exchange programs. Typically DRM is implemented by embedding code that prevents copying, specifies a time period in which the content can be accessed or limits the number of devices the media can be installed on.

Although digital content is protected by copyright laws, policing the Web and catching law-breakers is very difficult. DRM technology focuses on making it impossible to steal content in the first place, a more efficient approach to the problem than the hit-and-miss strategies aimed at apprehending online poachers after the fact.

This was last updated in January 2009

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Intellectual property of digital content of digital media cannot be protected without the use of content licensing with Digital Rights Management. Under US copyright laws, digital content belongs to the creators and thus must be licensed to the users rather than sold ownership of. Uses of DRM such as restrictive license agreements and encryption reward and incentivize creators of digital media for their work, which in turn benefits society as a whole (“Digital Rights Management”, 2012). Although it has been found that DRM is relatively easy to bypass with specific software and other methods, laws have been made to better enforce DRM such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. This act empowered DRM by criminalizing the creation and dissemination of technologies that allow users to bypass copyright protection methods (“Digital Rights Management”, 2012). Some argue that DRM gives too much power to media providers, in reality through there is little difference between the rights the provider would have over the material whether it was a physical or digital copy (McMiillan, 2012). Thinking about this concept from a more economic perspective, the widespread support of DRM systems can allow copyright owners to engage in more refined price discrimination. This will result in lower prices and more digital content from the providers (Von Lohmann). Despite the downsides, the protection of intellectual property that DRM provides is vital in the world of digital content that we live in today.
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