What is digital rights management (DRM)?
The amount of digital assets that organizations of all sizes have to manage is more overwhelming than ever. Let’s take a closer look at how businesses can manage who uses which assets to improve content workflows, protect intellectual property, and safeguard consumer interests — to maximize the ROI they get from their libraries of content. This post will cover:
- What is digital rights management and why it matters
- How DRM works
- DRM use cases
- Benefits and challenges of DRM
- Effective DRM strategies
- FAQ about digital rights management
What is digital rights management?
Digital rights management (DRM) refers to all the processes, policies, and technologies that organizations use to control how digital content creators use and share digital assets. DRM protects intellectual property according to relevant copyright laws to protect both content owners and corporations as they distribute and create content across the internet.
An essential part of DRM is digital asset management (DAM) — the methods by which a business organizes, stores, retrieves, and shares content in its asset library. Digital assets are typically associated with a license that defines terms and duration of use.
Why is digital rights management important for your business strategy?
Organizations need to know if they currently have the rights to use an asset and understand how and where they are allowed to publish it. If you publish or use a digital asset without the correct digital asset management permissions in place, your organization could face lawsuits and potential legal penalties. Using assets incorrectly can damage your brand reputation and value.
Unfortunately, many brands wait until they’re already in legal trouble to start thinking about how to incorporate DRM into their business strategy. Instead, make DRM a part of your processes and take advantage of DRM technologies as soon as you begin to work with digital content to protect your business and make workflows easier.
So now that we’ve defined DRM and its importance, let’s take a closer look at how it works to keep your digital assets safe and in the right hands.
How DRM works
From a high-level DRM works by restricting unauthorized users from accessing, editing, or sharing your digital assets. DRM software acts as a platform for preventing unauthorized users from using content in ways that aren’t approved by the owner. DRM software can help organizations with the following:
- Access control. DRM software helps organizations manage which users can access which assets. The software can manage authentication methods like usernames and passwords or digital certificates.
- License management. DRM software helps manage the creation, distribution, and validation of licenses that grant users access to the content or products they have purchased.
- Content encryption. DRM software uses encryption techniques to protect digital media and files from unauthorized access or consumption. Encryption transforms the content into a format that can only be viewed or accessed by approved, authorized users.
- Usage tracking. DRM software can track and record which content is being accessed, used, or shared. This information can provide valuable feedback for content creators seeking to understand user preferences and behaviors.
- Watermarking. DRM software can embed unique identifiers called watermarks to identify the original source of a file. These can help prevent unauthorized sharing or content theft.
Digital rights management use cases
Any organization that creates, collects, and stores digital media or customer data needs to have some way of keeping those files secure and restrict unauthorized access or sharing. DRM tools play an important role in protecting intellectual property, maintaining revenue generating content, and safeguarding consumer integrity. Let’s look at some of the ways organizations in different industries rely on DRM.
- Media and entertainment. Media and entertainment companies commonly use DRM to protect digital content like movies, TV shows, music, and eBooks. Without proper protections in place unauthorized copying, distribution, or sharing of content can cut into these companies’ profits. DRM lets content providers offer their works on streaming services and online marketplaces while maintaining copyright compliance and protecting revenue streams.
- Software and gaming. Software and gaming companies use DRM to prevent unauthorized users from accessing licensed or paid software or games. These companies use activation keys, license validation methods, or online authentication to verify the legitimacy of a user’s copy and limit improper use or access.
- Publishing and education. Publishers commonly use to protect content like eBooks, scholarly articles, academic papers, and other digital publications. Publishers can use DRM for access control and to limit the number of devices used to view content. In education, DRM allows for secure distribution of digital textbooks and course materials while maintaining copyright compliance.
- Corporate data protection. Data is extremely valuable for companies in every industry. DRM solutions help organizations maintain sensitive data, confidential content, and intellectual property. DRM can help restrict access or control document permissions (like view-only) to specific users or groups, setup features like watermarking, and control time-limited access. This helps prevent dreaded data breaches or unauthorized sharing.
- Healthcare. Healthcare companies deal with massive amounts of sensitive data about their customers’ health. DRM can help protect medical records, patient history, and sensitive research data — to ensure the privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of sensitive information and comply with data privacy regulations.
Benefits and challenges of DRM
The task of setting up DRM for safely storing and managing massive libraries of digital assets can feel daunting, especially if it’s your organization’s first attempt at creating this type of system. Here are a few challenges you might run into as you get started.
Common challenges of digital rights management
- Risks to data privacy and security. If you’re dealing with user data or sensitive information, you may be required to take additional steps to protect it to align with data security or privacy regulations. Otherwise, you may face fines or other penalties in the future.
- Unauthorized access to content. Without a strong DRM system, you may unknowingly be giving unauthorized users access to your content or files.
- Lost revenue or damaged income streams. If you’re a publisher that relies on content protection to maintain your income, poor digital asset management (DAM) or DRM could lead to lost revenue.
- Risks to ownership of intellectual property. Without a DRM system to protect your assets from unauthorized use or access, you risk losing control of the assets you own.
- Lack of copyright education. Without a DRM system that defines copyright and ownership information, people using your digital assets may not know how they should and should not use your content.
Key benefits of digital rights management
Putting a system in place to simplify your DRM processes has many potential benefits for businesses of all sizes. Not only will it save you time, but it can also protect you from liability or financial loss in the future.
- Data privacy and protection. When digital access and usage rights are controlled properly, you help keep sensitive or personal information private and secure.
- Controlled access to content. DRM systems make it simple to control how digital content is accessed and used.
- Retention of revenue. When digital assets are properly managed and secured, creators or holders can continue to profit from their content.
- Preservation of ownership. DRM protects intellectual property rights by preventing unauthorized copying, editing, and sharing of digital content.
- Copyright education. DRM helps creators let customers know which use cases are okay and which are not allowed based on the copyright of a given asset.
Effective digital rights management strategies
Regardless of how big or small your organization is, which industry you’re in, or what audience you’re trying to reach, you’re probably working hard to produce content for all different channels, audience segments, and customer needs. But one thing many companies struggle with is managing all those assets in a streamlined way.
Ideally, any time new digital files or digital media come into your organization, you immediately input each asset into a DAM platform along with its copyright, access control, and licensing information to prevent unauthorized use. If you skip this step it becomes nearly impossible to go back and retroactively attempt to upload that information.
Keeping up with asset expiration is another effective strategy to make sure your team complies with content protection and intellectual property rights. When the licensing agreement for an asset expires, the DAM ensures that the published asset is unpublished and that users can’t edit, publish, or download an expired asset.
Tools you can use for digital rights management
When you’re ready to get started with your DRM system Adobe Experience Manager Assets can help take the guesswork out of digital rights management. It makes it simple to track each asset and how it’s used to stay updated on where your content is going and how it’s used. This system is built as a single source of truth — a place to store and track your organization’s content. When your team needs a piece of digital content, everyone permissible knows where to find it.
Alongside the asset are the rights associated with it — no more guessing if an asset is fair use or if you have permission from the copyright holder to publish. Experience Manager Assets also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline tuning, tagging, cropping, and distribution.
FAQ about digital rights management
What is an example of digital rights management?
Apple uses a technology called FairPlay to protect media content like music, movies, TV shows, and eBooks that it sells in the iTunes store. This DRM solution uses encryption, product licensing, and device authorization to protect the content that Apple is selling.
What does it mean to use DRM?
An organization that has chosen to use DRM has implemented technologies and policies to protect its digital assets — like data or content — from unwanted use, access, or sharing.
Who uses DRM?
DRM is widely used by content creators, software providers, corporations, libraries, and other organizations to protect their digital assets.