Digital rights management refers to a methodical approach to copyright protection for digital media. The technologies that are used in digital rights management attempt to manage the use of, the modification of, and the distribution of digital materials that have been copyrighted, such as multimedia content and software. In this article, we provide a detailed definition of digital rights management to help you gain a better understanding of this method of copyright protection.
Digital rights management refers to a specific type of copyright protection for digital materials. The purpose behind it is to prevent the digital media from being redistributed without authorization, as well as to minimize the way in which people can copy any content that they have bought.
Digital rights management products were created as a response to the influx of online piracy of materials that were commercially marketed. This piracy spread as a result of the widespread use of file exchange programs. Traditionally, digital rights management is employed by embedding codes that prevent copying into digital media. These codes also determine a timeframe that content can be used for, or it the amount of devices that it can be used on.
A Controversial Topic
Using digital rights management is highly controversial, and it is not widely accepts. Those who agree with it state that it is a necessity, as it prevents media properties that others own from being copied against the will of the owner. These proponents equate digital rights management to putting a lock on a house as a way to prevent personal possessions from being stolen. They also state that this type of copyright protection helps the individual that owns the content retain their artistic control over it. They also state that digital rights management can certify that protected materials will continue to generate revenue.
On the other hand, there are people who are object to digital rights management. These individuals state that there isn’t sufficient evidence that proves it helps to stave off copyright infringement. They state that instead, digital rights management is an inconvenience to those who legitimately purchased the media. Moreover, opponents state that it is a way for businesses to prevent innovation and keep competitors at bay. Additionally, if the digital rights management tools that have been used on a certain piece of material change, it can become completely inaccessible. Lastly, this tactic has the potential to restrict users from being able to exercise the rights that have been granted to them under copyright law; making backup copies, having access to materials via libraries, or using any materials that have been copyrighted for education and research purposes.
Digital Rights Management and the Law
Across the globe, several laws have been enacted that criminalize the digital rights management. These laws make anything that concerns digital rights management, including the creation and distribution of tools that allow for it to be used, as well as even speaking about using it, illegal. In the United States, these laws are a part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In the European Union, these laws are a part of the European Union’s Copyright Direction.
The Introduction of Digital Rights Management
In recent years, there has been growing concern regarding the those who own media materials that have been copyrighted; particularly movies and music. This concern has developed as a result of the growing introduction and adoption of digital media and technologies that can convert analog materials to digital materials. Digital media files are of particular concern, as they can be copied endlessly without impacting their quality.
The increased use of computers as viewing devices has made it much easier for people to transform copyrighted materials into a broadcast form, or a physical analog form, into a digital form. Many people saw this as a way to make money, as they could sell the products the copied. Coupled with the widespread use of the Internet and the increased popularity of file sharing, unauthorized copies of copyrighted digital materials has become very common.
The very first form of digital rights management was introduced in 1983. Known as the Software Service System, this tool was create by Ryuichi Moriya. It utilized the process of encryption, as well as specialized hardware that handled decryption, and it also made it possible for people to send payments to the individuals that held copyrights. The idea behind the Software Service System was that the distribution of encrypted digital products should not be restricted, and more over, that users should be able to share them. In fact, users of those products were actually encouraged to share them.
Examples of Digital Rights Management
Several digital rights management technologies have been created over the years; however, few stay the course. Designing technologies for managing digital rights is difficult, as the system that is used has to be placed on top of the specific type of media format that it is going to be applied to. There are various formats of media with varying distribution, metadata, creation and permissions. As such, different challenges for using digital right management technologies exist.
Below are some of the most commonly used management tools across different types of media:
- Films. When DVDs were first introduced, Content Scrambling Systems (CSS) were often employed. This digital rights media system involved encryption that would prevent copying of digital video streams. It was divided and stored separately on the lead-in area of the DVD and the DVD drive itself. The purpose of this form of digital rights media is to prevent consumers from copying DVDs onto hard drives.
- Windows Vista. The digital rights management technology that Windows Vista uses is called Protected Media Path – Output Protection Management. Essentially, it monitors the processes that can access and produce media signals by encrypting audio data and videos, thereby protecting them from being copied before it reaches a graphics card. Protected Media Path requires graphics drives to identify if the hardware can be trusted; in other words, if the device content is being played on is permitted to play videos that are copy protected. In order to playback the protected content, the driver has to be signed by Microsoft.
- Advanced Access Content System. This form of digital rights management is a cryptographic system. It places copy protection on Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs. It is used by several well-known publishers, such as IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Disney, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and Warner Brothers. This system uses several layers of encryption and vigorous revocation system. It also uses a highly advanced key generation process. There are three separate parts of the Advanced Access Content System:
- Copy protection
- Modification protection
This form of digital rights management prevents media from being copied by employing the Volume ID, as well as a special key that allows the drive to handle the Volume ID. In order to decrypt a disc, users must possess Volume Unique Keys, which is comprised of the Volume ID, as well as the processed device key. Advanced Access Content does enable a system that is known as managed copy. This allows consumers to make legal copies of media they have legally purchased. There are three types of copying that this system allows, including an exact copy of the disc for backup purposes, a high-resolution copy that can be stored on a media server, and a low-resolution copy that can be used on portable players.
- Digital Watermarks. This type of digital rights management embeds data on the original media content. Though not a management tool on its own, digital watermarks are frequently used on movies, as they assist DRM systems in recording the copyright owner, information about the distributor and purchaser, and a tool that tracks the source of any copyrighted material that has been leaked. Digital watermarks are very similar to encryption systems, as they are embedded into the signal in a secure environment when the content is being created. The signal that contains the digital watermark then has to pass through an insecure channel where a potential attack could grab hold of and modify the signal.
While digital watermarks can be effective, there are ways that they can be removed. However, if the watermarks are removed, the content signal is usually compromised.
Is Digital Rights Management Good or Bad?
As mentioned, there is a lot of debate about digital rights management. Advocates say that it protects artists and copyright owners, while proponents argue that it can have a negative impact on consumers.
So, is digital rights management a good thing or a bad thing? That depends on who you ask. According to some members of the Federal Trade Commission, it can be a good thing for consumers. The FTC says that digital rights management has the potential to give consumers more choices when it comes to purchasing or downloading content that has been copyrighted. Conversely, other members of the Federal Trade Commission say that digital rights management isn’t ideal for consumers. These proponents believe that because this form of copyright protection ups the cost of products that have been encrypted, it is an unfair practice.