Digital Rights Management

DigitalRightsManagement is the digital version of rights management, also commonly abbreviated DRM. The purpose of DRM is to manage the flow of revenue generated by a copyright so that royalties may be paid to the copyright owners.

In the analog world, this is accomplished through licenses and agreements with third parties such as BMI and ASCAP. This has become a major issue in the digital world, however, since hi-fidelity copies of digital art works, music, and other creative objects can easily be copied an indefinite number of times without any degradation.

MicrosoftPalladium was started to address some of these issues. And in recent years DRM is the best known term. Apr05 saw some announcements in delayed implementation of these in WindowsLonghorn.

James Gosling, of JavaLanguage fame, suggested in Feb05a lot of proprietary work is now getting hidden behind DRM, as it is protected from reverse-engineering efforts through the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Examples include document formats used in some Microsoft products. See article at,39037106,39216544,00.htm

EPIC has a nice page with quite a bit of thorough detail and links.

See: - DRM News - Digital Rights Management News
Sadly the Digital Rights Management never seems to enforce your right to copy software legitimately for archive purposes, or the other reasons allowed under copyright law.

Unfortunately, DRM technology is inherently unable to tell the difference between a copy made for backup purposes, second-sourcing, timeshifting, fair use, or other legitimate purpose, and a pirate copy. Given that the creators of DRM technology and their customers either don't care about these consumer rights (or are flat-out hostile to them), this is generally not a concern and may even be seen as a feature. After all, Disney won't mind if suddenly you have to pay for that second copy of your favorite album that you keep in the car - which under current law in the UnitedStates you have every right to make)

Unfortunately, due to the DigitalMillenniumCopyrightAct, circumventing a copy protection scheme even for these legitimate purposes is against the law.
Some people prefer to call this DigitalRestrictionsManagement? because it means that a copyrighted work such as a song will contain "permission bits" which dictate what the user may and may not do with the work. For example, the work might be configured to expire after a given date or a given number of plays (after which time the user must pay again to use it any more), or it might be configured not to allow itself to be burned onto a CD. A text document might be configured so that you can view it but not modify it, or so that you can not print it, or so that it only works on one of your two computers at a time.

In order for something like this to work, it must be practically impossible for the user to modify the permission bits or otherwise interfere with their function. This is why anti-circumvention laws such as the DMCA exist. This is why there is an effort in industry to develop "trusted" computing such as MicrosoftPalladium. Trusted computing does not mean that the user can trust his computer; it means that content providers can trust it to protect their content from the user. It means tamper-proof hardware and digitally signed BIOSes and operating systems. The hardware will not allow the user to access anything DRM-protected unless there is an unbroken chain of trust which validates the BIOS, OS, and program as respecting the rights/restrictions bits. The programs have to be digitally signed, for example. If the BIOS isn't trusted, the hardware will block access to the copyrighted stuff. If the OS isn't trusted, the trusted BIOS will block access. If the program isn't trusted, the OS will block access. You will still be able to run things like Linux, but any DRM-protected material on your hard disk will be inaccessible unless you use an unmodified, trusted version of Linux, which has been independently certified as respecting the rights/restrictions bits.

DRM has not been proposed because of the capability to make "perfect digital copies". DRM has no parallel in the analog world. In fact, some advocates of DRM have noted with alarm that things such as film cameras, analog tape recorders, and so forth, can be used to record protected works, and therefore constitute an "analog hole" which must be plugged by banning these devices. Also, lossy compression algorithms such as MP3 have quality issues (made more obvious at lower bit rates), so digital copies are not "perfect".

Advocates of DRM point out that "trusted" computing would enable people to do things such as buy and rent music and movies over the Internet. Opponents worry that it would give existing movie and record companies an unbreakable government-backed monopoly, because ultimately the existing entertainment companies would control the content-protection mechanism, and could either prevent competitors from using it, or charge sufficient royalties to assure their own survival regardless of competitors. And reverse-engineering would be illegal regardless of motive.

The first fly in the ointment has arrived: SonySpyware. In less than a week from its discovery google returns 1000000 hits. Hopefully this would compromise DRM enough in the public eye, so that PHBs should finally get it that shoddy DRM solutions lacking any kind of transparency are more detrimental to their profits than piracy they think they are combatting.

If resources such as timber and water were to be sold and resold similar to DigitalContent?, there would be additional factors if not dimensions to consider relative to the supplying countries. For instance if certain areas were demanding FreshWater? more rapidly than could be supplied locally, and was pipelined in bulk from a distance, the economic impacts of the source region or country would have to be considered seriously. If the demanding region saw an opportunity to then resell to other distant regions for a MarkUp, considering only Economic factors might not bode well for the source country. Conversely even leveraging such technologies as desalinization from local SeaWater? could have significant SideEffects? on the coastline (see "Fertilizing the Sea" - ScientificAmerican April 1998 on Projects which have similar effect using minimal materials). Thus such issues should also be discussed at the UnitedNations level. Lessons from DRM would still apply though an StopBit? and an OakTree? are different kinds of Objects.

See ScientificAmerican November1997, where it is estimated SafeDrinkingWater? for everyone on the planet would cost $68 Billion over 10 years.

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