As with any new technology, DRM has been a bone of contention in the industry. Fair use or Fair Dealing is a term used to describe what a person is allowed to do with copyrighted content, without having to seek the permission of the copyright holder. It has evolved over time into what it means now and indications are that it will continue to do so. The term, being subject to constant review, is difficult to identify using a computer. For example, one could burn a CD of his/her favourite tracks and then make a copy of it to share with a friend, which is entirely different from generating copies in hundreds with the motive of selling them. The current DRM schemes are not capable of distinguishing between illegal use and fair use, and restrict some of the fair uses which are warranted by the law. Pundits point this out as a violation of the fundamental rights of the consumer. They also argue that no DRM scheme is completely secure and once a scheme has been bypassed and the original content recovered, the DRM scheme would be rendered redundant since the content stripped off the DRM scheme could then be distributed, without the DRM capsule. So they argue that DRM is essentially a waste of money, time and effort that ultimately affects the consumer who is denied his/her rights.
Further, DRM could prove to be a hindrance for historians in the future, who would not be able to recover information from 'DRM ed' content; the DRM scheme used to protect the content could have become obsolete by then. On the same lines, DRM also hinders data-archival.
The big mistake:
In 2005, Sony-BMG, a music company, in its efforts to introduce DRM in regular audio CDs, silently installed software on users' computers to monitor the usage of the media files and applications and report to them so that illegal use of the audio CDs can be tracked. This software introduced security vulnerabilities in the users' computers that could be exploited by intruders. When this DRM scheme was came into the limelight later, Sony was under fire for employing such a scheme. Lawsuits were launched against Sony and eventually the scheme was withdrawn.
The Analog Hole:
Effective as they may seem, current DRM schemes have a serious flaw which is called the 'analog hole'. When digital content is to be played on analog hardware, the digital information has to be converted into analog signals and then transmitted to the hardware. These analog signals can be intercepted, converted back to digital form and stored using a 'DRM-less' format. This defeats the whole point of DRM. This could probably be remedied in the future as more affordable digital hardware become available.
While several anti-DRM organisations are actively lobbying for their cause, DRM advocates are also working hard to create better Digital Rights Management schemes that would not violate the fair use doctrine. Whether Digital Rights Management is a success or a failure, only time will tell.
What they say:
Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO, Apple Inc.: "...because DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy." (on why the music companies should licence their music to Apple without DRM)"
Thoughts on Music, February 6, 2007, Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO, Apple Inc.
http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/ (Accessed on 14th January 2007 0754 hrs GMT).
Dave Goldberg, General Manager, Yahoo's Music Division: "DRM is not a consumer value proposition, it's a consumer cost. It creates a nice barrier of entry for the tech companies, rather than something that's beneficial to labels, artists, or consumers."
Edgar Bronfman, CEO Warner Music Group Corp: "we advocate the continued use of DRM in the protection of our and of our artists' intellectual property."
Fred Amoroso, CEO & President, Macrovision Corporation: "Without reasonable, consistent and transparent DRM we will only delay the availability of premium content in the home."
- Digital Rights Management (Wikipedia)
- How Stuff Works
- DRM Blog