Why DRM does not work

Written by Phil Cogar

September 11, 2007 // 7:22 a.m.

Tags: #digital #drm #management #piracy #rights #solutions

DRM. The mentioning of those three little letters can bring up some of the most heated arguments and feelings from the majority of netizens. With the vast majority of people having very strong feelings against the matter, it's hard for many to admit that it is something that is needed. However, many of the current implementations often hinder fair use in order to try and keep piracy to a minimum which, in turn, only leads to even more piracy.

Peter Glaskowsky has touched base on the ways to help enforce DRM over on his blog at CNet. It does not cover they ways to use DRM effectively though as that in itself could be a thesis paper.

The four main points for an actual working DRM solution that Glaskowsky presents on his blog are:
* The DRM system must use secure hardware components integrated into the playback devices (e.g., displays and speakers) so there is no accessible digital pathway carrying decrypted data. Playback devices must be able to communicate with an authentication server the first time it sees each protected work.

* Playback devices must not be able to play full-quality unprotected content.

* All copies of a given work must not be identical. When practical--with downloaded content, especially--each copy should be separately encrypted. When this can't be done--as with pre-recorded optical media--critical portions of the content should be distributed separately at the time of authentication. Even then, the number of copies sharing the same decryption keys should be limited as much as possible.

* The authentication process must use a secure communication channel between the DRM hardware and the authentication server, and transfer only the information necessary to play that specific copy of the work on that specific presentation device.

Of course this all leads down the path of enabling fair play use for legitimate consumers while also helping to keep piracy to a minimum. A effective DRM solution should enable you to watch or listen to your digital content wherever and whenever you desire but that would require a massive collaboration between CE manufactures in order to keep some sort of authentication system that would allow cross platform usage. For the time being, that's not going to happen.

Currently, there isn't a single manufacturer that is making this possible between its own devices (at least as far as I know) when it comes to being able to watch your protected video on your computer, television, portable media player and even your mobile phone. One day in the future, this will come to a point but for now, many prefer to rip their own media or simply download it from the Internet in order to either circumvent the copy protection or to simply not pay for it.

What's your stance on DRM? Would you be more supportive of it if it didn't inhibit your fair use rights? Tell us where you stand over in the forums.
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