Digital Rights Management

DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is literally everywhere on a computer. Microsoft products like Windows and Office require a license key for activation. The most common place to find DRM materials is in your music or video folder. I am going to cover the pros and cons of DRM from a consumer perspective and describe how DRM is implemented in a couple different media services.

As consumers, DRM gives us the peace of mind that we have completely and legally purchased and used our media. It gives software manufacturers a way of providing consumer’s trial ware. They can give us a 30-day trial to see if we like their programs before we buy anything. Parents can give their children access to media and still filter out inappropriate materials. Since DRM is essentially a file containing data about ratings and who can use the media, parents can set up parental controls so children cannot access what the parents don’t want them to be exposed to.

As an active user of iTunes, I find it inconvenient to have to type in my apple ID and password to activate every device in order for the device to use my purchases. One of the most annoying aspects of DRM is household media sharing. My brothers, sister and mom all have iTunes accounts. We should be allowed the ability to play each other’s music without having to know their passwords.

Now I will describe how DRM is implemented in a few media services. iTunes has an account that remembers your purchases. With iCloud, $20 per year extension, your entire iTunes library is uploaded and can be streamed or downloaded to any iTunes or iOS device on which you login to iCloud. With recent purchases of The Avengers in iTunes, I learned about a new “feature”. If you don’t have a HDCP (high-bandwith digital content protection) compliant graphics card and screen, you are not allowed to play high-definition content from iTunes. Amazon’s video service does not currently have a feature like this since the service permits streaming videos rather than letting you download and watch them. Rhapsody uses subscription DRM. You can download or stream music as long as you are subscribed. Once you stop your subscription, all your music is gone.

Piracy is illegal.  Without some method of controlling content, the music and video industry does not have an incentive to provide any content. It seems that DRM punishes the people who purchase media rather than those who pirate media. Therefore, the DRM system should be redesigned to ease control on those who purchase media but make it inconvenient for those who pirate media.

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