Digital Rights Management

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According to an article published this week in BBCNews, Western Digital, one of the world's leading hard drive manufacturers, has blocked its customers from sharing the media files stored on their drives online in an attempt to combat piracy.

The problem is that the ban also works for files that lack copyright and for user-created content.

For digital activists, this is another step in the so-called war against theft of protected materials that is damaging the rights of consumers.

The move into the digital age in which any form of content - books, music, TV shows, and even movies - can be easily shared among people around the world with an Internet connection has created unprecedented disruption and the creators of Professional content has struggled hard to adapt to change, facing a rampant increase in copyright infringement that threatens to destroy its business.

The most popular method of copyright control in the digital age is DRM (Digital Rights Management), software - and sometimes hardware - designed to prevent copying and control the use of various forms of multimedia files.

According to Peter Brown of the Free Software Foundation and a well-known critic of DRM: "DRM and other filtering initiatives by companies like Western Digital are an attempt to control our computers." "DRM is bad for society because it tries to monitor what we do and how we live our digital lives," says Brown in the aforementioned article. "DRM will never be good, because it takes away part of our rights as citizens."

Western Digital has blocked its users from sharing more than 30 different types of files, if they use the company's Anywhere Access software.
The most common problem with DRMs is lack of interoperability. Most of the world's major content producers use incompatible DRM systems. The most popular example is music purchased from the iTunes online store, which can only be played on iPods, iTunes machines, and Apple's own wireless TV system.

The BBC has also been criticized for using a form of DRM in its TV downloads that prevents the shows from being playable on Mac and Linux PCs.

According to Kemp Little's Paul Garland, the main problem is that it is quite difficult for a consumer to know what they can and cannot do with content they have just downloaded. "If DRM survives, a much greater effort will have to be made to communicate to buyers what they can and cannot do with it."

Video: Digital Rights Management as Fast As Possible


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