Pirates Get Their Gold

The Futility Of DRM

By Michael Hernandez

Last Updated: 06/27/18


Digital Rights Management (DRM) has evolved over the years.

DRM began as a solution for software companies to limit the amount of illegal distribution of their software (piracy) and has itself become an industry of its own to cover software, music, video, and other media.

Companies specializing in DRM sell various schemes, systems, and platforms to companies capitalizing on the fear of losing revenue.

The Piracy Problem

Unauthorized distribution and piracy is a major issue.

Piracy hurts companies that produce digital goods.

Every product pirated is a loss of revenue that leads to reduced profits.

Profits are what these companies thrive on. Without profits, these companies would cease to exist.

The interest in stopping piracy is reasonable and something that everybody should promote.

The mechanisms through which companies have attempted to stop piracy have, in many cases, caused problems for consumers.

This should not be the case.

DRM Problems

Companies' well-being heavily rely upon how well consumers react to their products.

It is important for these companies to consider how techniques to stop piracy have affected the consumer's experience of their products. If consumers are not happy, they will be less inclined to make future purchases.

At this point you may be asking, "how has DRM affected consumers?"

Well, it depends on the scheme employed.

In the beginning, DRM consisted of a few, simple systems.

Some of the most widely used DRM schemes included registration-keys, CD-keys, and simple CD-checks. These methods were annoyances at worst. They didn't usually affect computer performance, nor did they rely upon a persistent connection to Internet to achieve their goal.

Contemporary methods of DRM have become increasingly complicated as pirates have devised increasingly sophisticated cracks to those schemes.

It has become an escalation scenario: the two parties are continually attempting to surpass the other.

In this battle, companies have deployed DRM schemes that require a broadband Internet-connection to proprietary servers, effectively excluding all consumers who are without (and those using dial-up) and risking the accessibility should the servers ever stop working. Several schemes intrusively bury themselves deep into the consumers' hard drives, wasting disk space and system resources resulting in slower computers.

In all this it is evident that the consumer is takes much of the burden in this conflict between companies and pirates.

The Futility Of DRM

Despite the efforts of companies, the pirates are still achieving their goal.

That is, despite the various methods of limiting piracy, unscrupulous individuals are still able to breach the outer-shell of DRM and gain access to the sweet nectar that is the companies' product.

I am not suggesting that companies should cease fighting piracy. I think it would be more effective if they reconsider their tactics and instead of burdening the consumers with the weight of DRM, they should include incentives for purchasing legitimate copies.

They can embark on an educational campaign to inform the masses that downloading from unauthorized distributors is illegal and that it hurts companies.

The problem with current system is that it antagonizes the pirates; it gives them a challenge to work on. Worse, it glorifies them for "sticking it to the man."

Why continue to burden consumers, these companies' sources of revenue, with cumbersome DRM schemes? After all, if the pirates get their gold easily, why shouldn't the consumers? At least they'll pay for it.

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