Digital Rights Management

Don't mess with the DRM

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Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a term that encompasses various processes or methods of restricting usage of (or access to) a copyrighted work. Initially DRM technologies were created solely to prevent copying of software, but since the late 1990s they have been used in conjunction with creative works such as music, books, databases, and movies. DRMs are implemented at the discretion of the copyright owner. Cracking, reproducing, or tampering with DRM technologies has resulted in several lawsuits, usually brought under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which prohibits such activities). For example, the DRM system used on DVDs known as Content Scrambling System (CSS) was the subject of considerable litigation, as was the DRM system used to limit copying of Adobe e-Books. Despite claims made by their creators, no DRM has yet proven uncrackable.

Circumventing DRM is not excused just because DRM-cracking tools are widenly available. In a 2010 case, Apple sued a company that had circumvented its DRM system. The defendant company argued in defense that tools for cracking the DRM were widely available and that therefore, the DRM itself was so ineffective as to be meaningless. The court disagreed and held that if the DRM could not be circumvented without outside information or tools, it would be considered as effective DRM. Apple Inc. v. Psystar Corp., 673 F. Supp. 2d 931 (N.D. Cal. 2009).

New Rules in 2010

The Library of Congress issued rules in 2010 stating that wireless phone owners could break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers. Other rules issued: computer users could bypass security dongles if the dongle no longer works and can’t be replaced; users of eBook readers could break digital locks to use read-aloud software, and educators and filmmakers could circumvent DVD protection for noncommercial purposes.  


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