DRM Moves Beyond Hollywood

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Digital Rights Management technology is not uncontroversial, but it may be coming soon to your company.

As companies look for ways to better manage content and prevent security leaks -- not to mention outright theft-- a growing number are turning to digital rights management. Market research firm Global Industry Analysts (GIA) reports that the global market for DRM is projected to triple by 2014 and hit $2.5 billion by 2017. Enterprises and government agencies are increasingly jumping on the DRM bandwagon.

Not everyone loves DRM, which is seen in some circles as too limiting for users and overly empowering of big business. But the problems it addresses are real, and the technology is not going away.

The heart of the issue is protecting content in the digital age. Organizations are increasingly battling the unauthorized sharing and theft of content through various channels. The technology is already used by media and entertainment companies looking to protect programming , e-books and other content, which GIA says are the fastest growing market segment at 15.9 percent annually. But, in recent years, DRM has also become more widely used by law firms, healthcare providers (including those using electronic medical records) and mainstream companies.

The appeal of DRM is that it allows an organization to manage and control intellectual property. It’s possible to control who views a file, authenticate a user and establish limits on time for offline capabilities. An IT administrator can also revoke privileges—a particularly valuable feature if a laptop is lost or stolen. DRM vendors include the likes of Adobe, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and VeriSign.

However, the use of DRM isn’t without controversy—particularly when it’s used for media products. Consumers who purchase content often bristle at the limitations imposed by the technology. For example, a consumer who purchases a book on Amazon may not be able to read it on a competing e-book reader in the future. Someone who buys a DVD for Blu-Ray disc cannot copy it onto a portable media player for personal use or may not be able to view the film on future hardware.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) takes a negative view as well. “Corporations claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online and keep consumers safe from viruses. But there’s no evidence that DRM helps fight either of those. Instead DRM helps big business stifle innovation and competition by making it easy to quash ‘unauthorized’ uses of media and technology,” it asserts.

Either way, GIA concludes that demand for the technology will continue to grow for the foreseeable future and DRM will influence niche sectors ranging from education and financial services to retail. “Given the increasing levels of caution among content developers over safety of their high value content, the future definitely holds good for DRM applications,” GIA says.

This article was originally published on 2012-02-01
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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