Blog/Infosec 101/

Digital rights management

Jan 12, 2021

Digitalization brings new opportunities for creators to share and distribute content, but it also presents new challenges, one of the biggest of which is piracy. It’s getting more challenging to protect digital materials after distributing them to consumers or other users.

But while it may seem nearly impossible to protect content from copyright infringement, there are ways to make it extremely difficult. This is where digital rights management (DRM) comes into play. So, let’s take a look at how creators, developers, and businesses can secure digital media from illegal copying. But first, what is DRM?

What is digital rights management?

Digital rights management (DRM) is a broad term for systems and tools that aim to protect copyrights of digital material. The purpose of DRM technology is to control how the material is used, copied, altered, or distributed once it’s out of the author’s hands.

Basically, DRM enables the protection of authors’ work once it belongs to the consumer. While there are copyright laws that protect owners, they are no longer sufficient. One of the reasons is platforms like peer-to-peer sharing networks: while they have legitimate uses, they have also made it incredibly easy to copy and distribute copyrighted material illegally. Users who copy and share the materials may be breaking the law, but tracking down and suing each person for copyright infringement is nearly impossible.

How does digital rights management work?

DRM usually embeds the code that prevents misuse of copyrighted media and data into the material itself. For example, DRM can work as a lock, encrypting data so that only those with permission can see the content. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. DRM is a very broad term that covers a lot of tactics to ensure content security. Here are some DRM methods:

  • Encryption. File encryption is the most effective DRM tool. It lets you determine who can access the material so only those with the key can see the content.
  • Time and access limits. Setting an expiration date or limiting the number of times the file can be accessed is another effective DRM strategy that can help prevent the widespread distribution of sensitive or copyrighted data.
  • Modification prevention. DRM tools enable owners to prevent editing, saving, sharing, or even screenshotting the data.
  • Watermarks. Watermarks work in tandem with the rest of the DRM methods. A digital watermark is data inserted into digital content to track it. It can be used to record the distribution or even the current owner of the content. However, watermarks are less effective against illegal copying itself.

How does digital rights management work?

Digital rights management isn’t just a tool to prevent copyright infringement. Businesses can also implement DRM strategies to ensure data privacy. Let’s take a look at the benefits DRM can bring:

  • Data privacy and security. Implementing DRM is an effective way to keep track of and prevent the misuse of confidential company data. It also enables organizations to better comply with data protection regulations.
  • Creators retain ownership of their work. DRM protects content creators, preventing anyone from copying the work and claiming it as their own.
  • Revenue protection. DRM prevents illegal distribution of data so that everyone who wants to get their hands on a specific intellectual property has to pay for it. This ensures that creators and developers of the media retain their income.

While DRM tools aren’t the perfect solution for data privacy or security of intellectual property, implementing these strategies can go a long way to protecting creators and businesses alike.

Oliver Noble

Oliver Noble

Verified author

A nerd with a laser focus on all things cybersec. His own words. Oliver’s hobbies away from the computer include reading, Netflix, and testing the limits of yet another Raspberry Pi. To our surprise, this 130-pound ‘nerd’ also bakes a killer pumpkin pie.