Prevention of misuse and theft of content has become all the more important in the Digital Environment.
Digital rights management (DRM) is a generic term that refers to access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices. The term is used to describe any technology which makes the unauthorized use of such digital content and devices technically formidable, but generally doesn't include other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the file or device, such as serial numbers or keyfiles. It can also refer to the restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices.
Digital rights management technologies attempt to control use of digital media by preventing access, copying or conversion to other formats by end users. Long before, the arrival of digital or even electronic media, copyright holders, content producers, or other financially or artistically interested parties had business and legal objections to copying technologies.
While analog media inevitably loses quality with each copy generation, and in some cases even during normal use, digital media files may be duplicated unlimited number of times with no degradation in the quality of subsequent copies. The advent of personal computers as household appliances has made it convenient for consumers to convert media (which may or may not be copyrighted) originally in a physical/analog form or a broadcast form into a universal, digital form (this process is called ripping) for location- or timeshifting. This, combined with the Internet and popular file sharing tools, has made unauthorized distribution of copies of copyrighted digital media much easier.
Although technical controls on the reproduction and use of software have been intermittently used since the 1970s, the term 'DRM' has come to primarily mean the use of these measures to control artistic or literary content.
DRM and Film
Microsoft's Windows Vista contains a DRM system called the Protected Media Path, which contains the Protected Video Path (PVP). PVP tries to stop DRM-restricted content from playing while unsigned software is running.
Advanced Access Content System (AACS) is a DRM system for HD DVD and Blu-Ray Discs developed by the AACS Licensing Administrator, LLC (AACS LA), a consortium that includes Disney, Intel, Microsoft, Matsushita (Panasonic), Warner Brothers, IBM, Toshiba and Sony.
DRM and Music
Discs with digital rights management schemes are not legitimately standards-compliant Compact Discs (CDs) but are rather CD-ROM media. Therefore these CDs could not be played on all the CD players. Many consumers could also no longer play purchased CDs on their computers. PCs running Microsoft Windows would sometimes even crash when attempting to play the CDs.
Many online music stores employ DRM to restrict usage of music purchased and downloaded online.
The various services are currently not interoperable, though those that use the same DRM system (for instance the several Windows Media DRM format stores, including Napster and Yahoo Music) all provide songs that can be played side-by-side through the same player program. Almost all stores require client software of some sort to be downloaded, and some also need plug-ins.
Content piracy, in all its forms, is recognized as a growing threat to a broad range of business interests. Of special concern is the distribution of illegal copies of movies via the internet. With the increasing capability and nearly universal availability of broadband connections at home and work, this trend toward online piracy is likely to accelerate. Consumers seemingly have assumed access to the content equals fair use and they have not as yet been swayed by arguments about depriving content owners of their legitimate revenue streams.