Digital Rights Management, a Help or a Hindrance?

This Article comes to us from the music industry and while it is a year old, I wanted to include it because the rampant piracy of the music industry is something very relevant to the piracy of electronic books (ebooks) today (and now).  Rice and Duke Universities conducted research on levels of piracy in the music industry when Digital Rights Management (DRM) was removed.  It was suggested that the only people being negatively affected by these restrictions were the customers who were paying for the services. This is because the pirated content did not have the DRM restrictions so basically the people paying for music in this case, were paying for music with the DRM restrictions.

This is an important problem in the context both for the music and publishing industry since measures are put into place to prevent piracy, which ironically in turn seem to do the exact opposite. If someone buys a cd or a physical book, it is an object which can be shared by the nature of it being a tangible object with no restrictions under the law preventing such sharing. This is the basis under which libraries function, so when cannot help but wonder why restrictions should be applied to the same content only in a digital format.

When I was in high school the main way I listened to music and expanded personal taste was by checking cd’s out of my local library.  The DRM restrictions prevent a user from making even backup copies of their purchase. When I used to buy cd’s, I would download them to my computer so I was able to transfer them to my mp3 and carry them with me. While this is no doubt antiquated technology now, I would have been very upset not to be able to use my product this way.  In a strange way these restrictions actually make the buying of a cd preferable, and they shouldn’t since the whole point in making content available in a digital format is for the convenience of the user.

At the end of the day DRM is a hindrance and it is a control measure put into place which discourages ebook purchases and gives the user less freedoms with the purchased content than with a physical book. DRM poses a challenge to techies who are willing to find a freer, less controlled copy than to invest in something they are restricted by.


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