Digital Rights Management: The Good, the bad and the ugly

imageDigital Rights Management has faced sharp criticism since its debut in the late 20th century. Its harsh and restrictive limits prevent users and consumers modifying access and distributing content after a purchase has been made. Most noticeable implementations of DRM had been the likes of Apples iTunes store, Xbox Market Place and the likes of Sony – who guard the industries they thrive in with lock and key, some times literally.

DRM came into force after the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed by the United States to impose criminal penalties on copyright infringement. Instant application of DRM was soon to follow by suppliers such as Sony, Apple and later the likes of the film industry such as Warner Bros.

Copyright and DRM exist to prevent unlawful distribution, copying, modification of artistic content. Companies for example Apple have implicated DRM through their iTunes eco system. A world wide established commerce of music distribution Apples success with the iPod led to it becoming the most successful and lucrative MP3 market on the plane, with billions of dollars of profit each year. Yet a the shackles inflicted by Apple prevented their users from downloading third party content to their devices, forced to buy from the expensive Apple eco system. Community bases rivalled against this and therefore the worry of copyright infringement became a reality. Walter Isaacson talks in his biography about Steve Jobs the battle he fought to secure copyright law with new providers in the iTunes store. Unwelcome by the international music community Apple later was known as a controlling and overpowering company; but that is another story.

DRM has in some ways crippled creativity, its limits on the reuse of content has crushed a user base who previously created and produced content that would become global. Profit and money are the driving force behind digital creation and the enforcing of the law seems to have distracted companies and artists from the values of content creation. Industry standards of restricting access to content has now become wide spread, affecting the film, book, and photography industry. But is DRM a plague of the internet that restricts users of does this method of prevention protect the work of artists who have sweat tears and blood over them?

Many would argue either way, but the facts are simple, DRM isn’t going away. With the latest introduction of Microsoft’s thriving Xbox console and Sony’s Playstation expected around the corner, both companies have dabbled in the likelihood of restricting their gamers to only using games once and the elimination of the second hand gaming industry. Digital content provider such as Netflix also have limited the reuse of their films on devices.

Copyright is meant to protect the interests of content produced, yet it seems to only limit the access to material and the content creativity. What do you think?