Digital Rights Management and the Modern-Day Pirate
To tell the obvious truth, digital media has completely changed the way audiences buy and consume content. Movies, TV, music and games can be compactly stored and streamed anywhere in the world without the need for a physical storage device. While many of us are content to pay our monthly tithe to Netflix or Hulu to access their media libraries, the digital transition poses a question for those who would like to “own” their content. The main question being: “Do you really own” digitally stored content?
It’s easy to understand how someone owns a book or Blu-Ray disc, but when it comes to a digital file, just because it’s on your hard drive doesn’t mean you’re there. have unlimited access. Digital Rights Management or DRM is the umbrella term for technologies developed and used as anti-piracy measures in digital media.
DRM protection methods vary, but the general principle is to prevent consumers from sharing files they have stored on their computer. Disney wouldn’t be very happy if people could buy Spider-Man: No Coming Homedownload it to their device, then send it to all their friends, without paying that $20 fee.
While it’s understandable that companies and artists want to protect their creations, these types of protections restrict access to the content that consumers buy in ways that traditional physical media wouldn’t.
There is no computer program attempting to verify that the physical copy of Dunes I sat on my bookshelf is a legitimately sold and manufactured product. However, it could be if I tried to open an e-book copy placed on my desktop.
While some DRM methods allow users to download and store files on their hard drive for access at any time, other methods require devices that intend to access DRM-protected content to be connected to the Internet.
The best example of this comes from PC games. The largest PC digital game retailer is Steam. Steam sells digital games and manages DRM for video game publishers. The simple explanation for this process is that your local device checks Steam’s servers to verify that your account actually owns the game it’s trying to run.
Even if someone has software downloaded and installed locally on their hard drive, that storage space is useless without an Internet connection to verify that it is legitimate.
This greatly restricts the use of media that you are supposed to “own”. Playing games or using software that uses this type of DRM protection is no longer possible on laptops in offline locations, such as airplanes.
While the Kindle ebook on my computer (which uses a form of DRM that doesn’t require internet access) may still be readable offline, digital copies like this often limit users to proprietary software.
I can only read a Kindle ebook through the Kindle app, even though the book I’m reading can easily be placed in a file type that can be read by other programs. Although it doesn’t seem like a major problem, software and technology are constantly evolving.
The software, web pages, and companies that are here today might not be here forever. What happens to the digital files I “own” when this happens? If the items consumers own are locked behind proprietary software, that may or may not be supported in the distant future. Are we really doing anything other than renting this content for the foreseeable future?
People who want to own content and media can fall back on physical media as a way to retain true “ownership” of said media.
However, even your use and ownership of physical media is restricted by DRM. Most Blu-Ray discs you buy include some form of protection to prevent people from copying the discs to their computers.
Being able to copy a disc into a digital format is great insurance for media lovers. Even if their physical media is lost or damaged, they will always have a backup of the content. However, these copy protections make this much harder to do.
However, DRM and copy protection still do not prevent piracy. Right now me and anyone else with a search engine could go to one of the many disreputable haunts on the internet and download any number of games, movies, shows television and albums.
DRM protections are deterrent at best. Those who really want to get content for free can do so quite simply and with minimal risk of legal repercussions. DRM does more to impede consumers’ freedoms and accessibility to “clean” content than it does to protect intellectual property.
What DRM really prevents is people casually sharing content they’ve purchased, with the less motivated or tech-savvy consumer sending a file to a friend. However, the exact impact of casual sharing or even pirating on media publishers is unclear. It was not, and is, hard to follow.
Publishers tend to claim that vulnerabilities in consumers being able to share content can impact how many people will end up buying their product. If a friend can shoot them on file, why bother? Similarly, if a quick Google search finds me the same content, does it really prevent many more people from accessing it?
The big question is whether more people will be casually sharing files compared to people looking for content on pirate websites. These types of questions explain why DRM remains a huge topic of debate. An interesting article from Mike Shatzkinas well as a research paper examining DRM on its technical side, to shed light on this debate.
Some storefronts sell DRM-free content, one of the biggest names being Good Old Games (GOG.com). GOG specializes in selling video games, as the name suggests, older games without DRM protections. Unlike most DRM-free retailers, GOG also offers a strong selection of newer, high-demand titles from popular game publishers.
However, there are no major equivalent storefronts for video, ebook and audio content. You simply won’t find DRM-free copies of major motion pictures, albums by popular bands, or books by famous authors.
There are retailers and websites that offer DRM-free content; the Internet Archive has huge libraries of public domain and publicly available content that can be downloaded for free, but none of them contain most of the new content that people are looking to access.
Unless retailers decide to start selling content without DRM protections, consumers who really want to “own” a particular piece of media will be forced to collect and manage their record collections. With the popularity of streaming and digital media as a medium for content, perhaps even the physical product won’t be very reliable. After all, when was the last time you walked into a store and saw a CD?
Given the pace of technological advancement, there are reasonable concerns about the longevity of digital content. Although digital files do not degrade and last for all intents and purposes forever, the software and hardware they run on are constantly being updated and changed. DRM is an additional obstacle to the management and preservation of our digital libraries.
Authors biography :
Garrett Hartman is a contributing writer at Smart magazine.
For Intello magazine
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