Digital Rights Management
As the convention is, let me define Digital Rights Management. DRM is an application that attempts to control what buyers can and can’t do with digital media/hardware that they purchase. Simply speaking, it is nothing but conveying the following message to the buyer: ‘Hey you bought it, but you can’t share it’.
You might wonder how DRM is relevant to you. Let’s see…
Buying a DVD and not being able to copy the contents to your PC and buying a game from the iTunes store and not being able to copy it on multiple phones – these are instances of DRM.
The use of DRM is controversial. The Free Software Foundation explains the use of Digital Restriction Management. Absolute implementation of DRM would mean paying for a lot of things that we use free of cost today. In other words, you might have to pay to listen to your favourite MP3 which you can now copy from your friend’s PC or you might have to pay to access a particular episode of your favorite soap on YouTube (which you can do free of cost now) if absolute implementation of DRM is achieved.
The controversy lies in the fact that some people are ready to pay while others have the ‘why pay?’ attitude and are of the view that no one has the right to exercise control on creative concepts like music and entertainment. The copyright ‘owners’ of digital data have their own thought process. There’s a cost involved in attaining the copyright, media generation, editing and packaging the data into simple digital files before they reach you. There’s also the question of artistic integrity. Of course, 99 cents for a track is nothing. But compounded and continued revenue is what fuels the industry. DRM is important for sustenance of quality digital products in the market.
Some relevant facts:
- According to Business Software Alliance, losses incurred by software vendors as a result of piracy amounted to $53 billion in 2008
- PC software piracy rates in India and China alone is as high as 41%
- A study by the International Chamber of Commerce’s BASCAP in 2010 estimates an alarming rise in piracy-driven job loss in Europe’s creative industries from 185,000 in 2008 to 1.2 million by 2015. While these figures and similar other figures have been under constant debate, there is no denying that the impact of piracy has been substantial on the industry
As I stated in the beginning, DRM only ‘attempts’ to control the situation as digital pirates are working round the clock to break these protection algorithms of DRM. Over a period of time, some people would be able to break any algorithm and every time the digital pirates break it, the copyright owners develop yet another challenge for the digital pirates and this continues like a game.
From ‘ripping’ and ‘time-shifting’ to ‘analog holes’ and what you think can be a solution, we shall discuss the challenges faced by DRM in further posts. We can also trace the growth of DRM from simple password-protected files to complex hash encrypted dongles. Do let me know what you’d like to read and discuss.
So, sit tight. The ride has just begun!