by Rob Boirun for BurnWorld.com
Introduction to Digital Rights Management
Digital rights management, as its name implies, applies only to digital media. Digital media have gained in popularity over analog media both because of technical advantages associated with their production, reproduction, and manipulation, and also because they are sometimes of higher perceptual quality than their analog counterparts. Since the advent of personal computers, digital media files have become easy to copy an unlimited number of times without any degradation in the quality of subsequent copies. Many analog media lose quality with each copy generation, and often even during normal use. The popularity of the Internet and file sharing tools have made the distribution of copyrighted digital media files simple.
The availability of multiple perfect copies of copyrighted materials is perceived by much of the media industry as a threat to its viability and profitability, particularly within the music and movie industries. Digital media publishers typically have business models that rely on their ability to collect a fee for each copy made of a digital work, and sometimes even for each performance of said work. DRM was created by and/or designed for digital media publishers as a means to allow them to control any duplication and dissemination of their content.
Although technical control measures on the reproduction and use of application software have been common since the 1980s, the term DRM usually refers to the increasing use of similar measures for artistic works/content. Beyond the existing legal restrictions which copyright law imposes on the owner of the physical copy of a work, most DRM schemes can and do enforce additional restrictions at the sole discretion of the media distributor (which may or may not be the same entity as the copyright holder).
DRM vendors and publishers coined the term digital rights management to refer to the types of technical measures discussed here. Because the “rights”—actually, technical capabilities — that a content owner grants are not the same as the legal rights of a content consumer, DRM critics point out that the phrase “digital rights management” is a misnomer and the term digital restrictions management is a more accurate characterization of the functionality of DRM systems.
DRM is an extension of Mandatory Access Control (as opposed to Discretionary access control) wherein a central policy set by an administrator is enforced by a computer system. The well-studied theoretical problems of Mandatory Access Control apply equally to DRM. DRM is vulnerable to an additional class of attacks due to its need to be run on tamper-resistant hardware (DRM systems that do not run on tamper-resistant hardware cannot ever be theoretically secure since digital content can be copied on a hardware level).
This excerpt is shared with permission from burnworld.com.