Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a collection of techniques used by entertainment and software companies with the objective to combat piracy and theft of intellectual property. These techniques include dictating how products can be copied, used and installed. Being the Internet and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs have impacted both of these industries, they are desperately trying to fight this usage and halt the practice of illegal file sharing.
As a reaction to the widespread sharing of files, the entertainment and software industry have become big proponents of DRM to prevent consumers from copying or creating copies of their products. Encryption is an important element of DRM and in utilizing these methods, the producer maintains control over the way the file can be utilized, essentially “locking” free and unlimited access to them until authorization is given for usage and when “unlocked”, the usage is restricted. Unfortunately this hasn’t exactly stopped illegal file sharing, but instead primarily impacted the law abiding consumers.
In essence, implementing digital rights management initially seemed like a great solution, but it has caused a lot of negative effects too. One of the larger problems with this practice is that in utilizing digital rights management techniques it has impacted fair use provisions. Basically DRM dictates to the user who, what and where the copyrighted material can be used. Sure, on the surface this sounds fair, but what happens when you need to upgrade your computer, or change music players? If so, chances are you can forget that vast music collection you’ve amassed and/or re-install that software program you love so much on a new computer. DRM restrictions can control how many times a file can be copied and/or installed, and for those consumers, it’s a financial loss and a waste of investment As technology becomes outdated and people need to upgrade, you can see how this has become a real problem.
Granted, consumers only purchase a license to use and they don’t “own” an intellectual property product, but certainly they should be able to use the product in the way they want within the law. The fact that DRM strategies prevent people from doing this has caused more distress to these industries since consumers are not responding well to the fact that they have little or no control over the products they purchase and as a result turn even more to piracy.
Technology has become both a gift and a curse to the entertainment and software industries. It’s a gift because information is now widely available and the public now has a great deal of access to it, but unfortunately most of these industries failed to make the competitive economic connection and generate a profit from it and the piracy population beat them to it. Thus widespread access to digital files is viewed as a curse. It’s reasonable to see the logic and motivation behind the creation of digital rights management, but unfortunately it’s probably not the best solution.