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Digital Rights Management (DRM)

1. Introduction: Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they have purchased. DRM is used to control view, play, print, save, copy, transferring files from one media to another one, password protection of the file and other such operations on digital content (like electronic texts, music, and video). The contents are persistently protected from storage stage to its uses and are not available at anytime in decrypted state. DRM technology creates intentional and artificial information usage barriers.
U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology defines DRM, as “a system of information technology components and services, along with the corresponding law, policies and business models, which strive to distribute and control intellectual property and its rights.”
Electronic Frontier Foundation defined DRM as a system that attempts “to control what you can and can’t do with the media and hardware you’ve purchased.”
Publishers of digital content are start relying on Digital Rights Management to stop easy and affordable replication of their digital content. The electronic resources can be controlled by the publishers as per the terms of the license. For example, an E-book can be licensed to one single user and the file will work only on one single device.

2. Uses of DRM: Some content providers claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement and that it can help the copyright holder maintain artistic control or ensure continued revenue streams. Proponents argue that digital locks should be considered necessary to prevent "intellectual property" from being copied freely, just as physical locks are needed to prevent personal property from being stolen.
            Those opposed to DRM contend there is no evidence that DRM helps prevent copyright infringement, arguing instead that it serves only to inconvenience legitimate customers. Furthermore, works can become permanently inaccessible if the DRM scheme changes or if the service is discontinued. Digital locks placed in accordance with DRM policies can also restrict users from exercising their legal rights under copyright law, such as backing up copies of CDs or DVDs, lending materials out through a library, accessing works in the public domain, or using copyrighted materials for research and education.
Many DRM systems require authentication with an online server. Whenever the server goes down, or a region or country experiences an Internet outage, it effectively locks out people from registering or using the material. This is especially true for a product that requires a persistent online authentication. Again, when standards and formats change, it may be difficult to transfer DRM-restricted content to new media.

3. Laws Regarding DRM: Article 11 of the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) requires nation’s party to the treaties to enact laws against DRM circumvention, and has been implemented in most member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization. The American implementation is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), while in Europe the treaty has been implemented by the 2001 European directive on copyright, which requires member states of the European Union to implement legal protections for technological prevention measures.

4. DMCA and DRM: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Passed on October 12, 1998 by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA extended the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of on-line services for copyright infringement by their users.
DMCA criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works under Section 41 (“Technological Protection Measures and Rights Management Information”). It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet.

5. Indian Copyright Act and DRM: Indian Copyright Act, 1957 has incorporated Section 65A which is titled “protection against circumvention of technological measures”. Under this provision, tampering with the DRM measures is a punishable offence. Circumvention can be defined fairly broadly, encompassing decrypting, descrambling, avoiding, bypassing, removing, deactivating, or impairing a digital lock.

6. Libraries and DRM: “Access to Information” is a crucial factor for better literacy, economic growth, quality of life and the development of democratic society. This is the reason for which different copyright law have the provisions of fair use for libraries, archives, museums, etc.  Libraries provide access to digital material through a variety of legal constructs; license agreements, exceptions under national copyright law, legal deposit, national library and the public domain. In case of printed books, the librarians can make a few copies for archival purpose and can lend the books to the users.
In the emergence of DRM, the danger for libraries is that DRM represents a significant loss of control over purchased or procured materials by the libraries. DRM measures restrict the scope of fair use possibilities for libraries and academic community. If the libraries circumvented the technological measures (such as encryption) used in the DRM it is a punishable offence, although it is allowed as per fair use exceptions.
The second danger is that libraries can be cut out of the picture altogether. As in the case of DRM, the publisher can control the access of the resources so the big companies like Apple or Amazon can one day think of weeding out the role of the libraries from the picture.

7. Conclusion: Technology has long been recognized as a key factor in enabling copyright violation. However, Digital Rights Management software attempt to restrict copying. In future, DRM together with internet may be used thoroughly for discovery and policing of copyright. No doubt the DRM will give a direct benefit to the author and publisher of the digital content. However, the DRM is a direct attack on the library’s role of learning, teaching and research. Libraries are staffed by some of the most resourceful and intelligent individuals in the world. It is the time to find out the alternative of DRM or find a solution within the DRM for the libraries with scope for fair use.

How to Cite this Article?
APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.
Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.
MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.

Badan BarmanBadan Barman at present working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India. He is the creator of the LIS Links ( - India’s most popular social networking website for Library and Information Science professionals. He also created the UGC NET Guide ( and LIS Study ( website.

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