Rights management systems seem to be controversial. Publishers (rights holders) need to protect their intellectual property and enforce the content usage rules required by their author contracts and business models. Libraries, bookstores, associations, and schools demand easy-to-use, flexible, and predictable loan and reading options, and DRM puts rules around what can and cannot be done with a book. The needs of these two groups can be at odds.
I was doing some online reading about DRM in other markets, and I ran across a chat community dedicated to hating DRM. In a post answering the question about why they hate DRM, it simply says “you can’t steal it”. The wiki definition of DRM is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they’ve loaned or purchased. And even though digital content is protected by copyright laws, policing those intent on breaking the law is very difficult. Under US copyright laws, digital content belongs to the creators, and must be licensed to users rather than sold with ownership.
The gaming and movie industries have long been entrenched in the DRM space. The music industry, not so much. That’s why you see artists on the Grammy awards thanking their fans for “buying” their music, not getting it from another method. And even though it is against copyright laws, the sharing of music is common practice. I recently read an article that HP even added DRM to their printers, preventing non-HP cartridges from working with their machines. Think about it – they did all the work to create this technology, they are performing the service to help customers, and knockoff ink, even though it’s cheaper, could actually harm the machine.
So, if DRM is necessary to protect intellectual property, why does it have such a bad reputation? Again, it comes down to the premise: I paid for the book, video game, or movie, shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I want with it? In actuality, you’re licensing the right to read, play and watch as many times as you want, on any system you want. The DRM is there to ensure the illegal doesn’t happen; that it’s not copied and placed online for millions to view, the rights be damned.
Most people are honest and are accepting of the fact that there are rules and you get what you pay for. DRM was not really made for the zillions of folks who meet that definition. DRM was made for the others who put on chat boards “you can’t steal it”.