What is DRM?

Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) is any technology that is built into an electronic product or service with the aim of limiting its range of uses after purchase. It is designed to prevent customers from using digital technology in ways that do not correspond to the business agenda of a content provider or device manufacturer.

This technology often restricts individuals from doing things that are perfectly legal, so we might not be able to put together a mix of music files we bought legally, or to lend an e-book to a friend. Even backups can be restricted. Restrictions management technology removes basic rights and freedoms in the digital world. All DRM systems have one thing in common: They give businesses control over things that we, the owners, should be in control of. For example, businesses decide how often we can play the movies we paid for and what kind of files we can read on our e-book reader.

Even if we find a way to circumvent DRM and free us of these restrictions, the European Copyright in the Information Society Directive makes it illegal. This Directive and similar laws help preserve the outdated business models of publishers (of news, literature, music, film and other information), for example by limiting the right to private copying, in a world where virtually everyone has multiple media devices.

Electronic goods are therefore often built to be defective, forbidding the full capacity of the technology to be used, forbidding uses that were entirely uncontroversial before technological progress gave businesses the means to prohibit them.

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