Content Sharing, Content Protection, DRM

I have written a white paper, recorded short audio clipping or video. I want to share my knowledge with people across the globe or people who missed my class. I share content free say through podcast or a blog(like this). Over time I become popular and want to generate my money from my hobby of sharing.

I try to publish a book, Audio CD or Video CD and sell the self created content for a price. This has been happening for years. People published and sold books. People sold entertainment media on record labels, then cassettes, then CDs, then DVDs. In all these cases, the created content is sold and the buyer purchased content agreeing to copyrights. The buyer is expected not to make copies of the content and sell and make profit and it was not easy or profitable to create copies also.

Buyer could share with his friends or family. As, there was only one copy of the material at any instant of time, all is well with content sharing. If cost of content was low, people prefer to purchase rather than share and when the cost was high, they bought one copy and shared among friends.

Things changed. Technology started progressing. Now comes era where people could mutate original book or audio and video and impersonate the author or creator and project the content as their own. The creator wanted to protect the content. Technology proposed to ensure the identity of the content from impersonation by encryption and demanded a player that can decrypt only can play the content. This is Content Protection. The creator choose to provide free content and a free players to plays free content.

The creator choose to provide some free content and some paid content and provide a paid player or device capable of playing the purchased content and free content. iTunes came with a device that enabling sharing to multiple ipods, media available one iTunes account for a set of family devices. Please see the article Share iTunes with my ipod and ipad and I have personally tried to connect to single iTunes account with iPod of mine and my wife. Plural-sight comes with licensed player that would play any content created by Plural sight and allows only a predefined quantity of content to be downloaded offline. In both above cases, sharing is made possible limited to a set of users or a set of content.

It is quite possible that content has been downloaded for offline viewing and the player license gets expired. It is quite possible that content purchased is lost in hard drive crash. People propose a time bounded, low cost subscription based license model, to enable continuous usage of the content. I view this as an approach trying to be fair to creator, distributor and the licensee.

With technology getting sophisticated,arrives DRM. Here the content and application purchased can be used only on a single device. The buyer can still share the device and share the content and nothing stops the buyer. Middle men are demanding for DRM that might not be fair to the buyer, as follows.

  • Limit the number of times content can be used?
  • Limit the capability to play content when device is connected to projector or internet?
  • Prevent screen capture of videos and audios?
  • Disable access to the user from the server if suspicion activities are noticed?

How to make it fair to the buyer also? Can the license be priced competitive based on the usage moments? Can the following be published?

  • Cost of using content content once
  • Cost for using specific content a fixed number of times for a predetermined time period
  • Cost of using specific content for a predetermined time period
  • Cost for using all available content fixed number of times for a predetermined time period
  • Cost for using all available content for a predetermined time period?
  • Make all the above cost as cheap to users and competitive

To summarize, DRM attempts to use technology to make it harder to share and collaborate; Technology gets adopted enabling sharing and collaboration. DRM will lose if collaboration and sharing win. It is harder and slower to build and deploy restrictions than destroy them. Once restrictions are broken by approach, the method to break can be shared using technology. DRM will win when the cost of breaking DRM is higher than the profit to be made and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Does DRM represent Digital Rights Management or Digital Restrictive Management?