Digital Rights Management

Digital Rights Management

Study Guide


What is Digital Rights Management?

Any arrangement in which the usage of a copyrighted digital work can be restricted by the owner of the rights to the work. These restrictions are determined by the copyright holder. Typically, authorized recipients or users must acquire a license in order to consume the protected material. These can be files, music, movies and any other form of digital work.

Advocates -

    The Entertainment industry, particularly with lobbying from the RIAA and MPAA, have maintained the DRM is the only way to prevent unauthorized copying of intellectual property and creative works. The Government is under intense pressure from these lobbyists to pass laws giving them greater control over what users can and cannot do with their products, as already evinced in the DMCA.

Opponents -

    DRM hampers your ability to use a product the way you intend to. Copy protection on music from the iTunes store means you cannot convert your music to a different format, or play it on a player that does not support the proprietary format. Many people see DRM as a limitation to their rights to enjoy a product responsibly in the name of fear and greed. If DRM protects sales, what of the fact that no DRM is unbreakable (considering your computer or music player breaks it every time it is played).

Sony Rootkit -

    In late 2005, Sony BMG issued thousands of music CD's containing DRM written by First4Internet called XCP. When played in a Windows computer, the software would install itself whether the user accepted the EULA or not. The software was actually a rootkit, that is, it is rogue software that conceals itself and gains complete access to a machine, often by exploiting vulnerabilities. XCP had a larger effect however, in allowing any software on the machine to be concealed by the same method in which it concealed itself. This allowed virus writers to exploit the existence of the Sony rootkit for their own viruses, causing many organizations to ban the use of Sony music CD's altogether. Class-action suits sprung up and Sony BMG decided to pull the plug and offer an exchange policy and an uninstaller for the rootkit. Unfortunately, the uninstaller turned out to have a severe security flaw, opening the Sony wound even further. After all the turmoil, one must ask themself, is this all worth it? Even barring future fiascos, won't the subverters always find a way around DRM anyway? Didn't Sony learn its lesson in Sony Corp. vs. Universal City Studios (1984)?