Digital rights management
Digital rights management

The following IP guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Digital rights management
  • What is digital rights management?
  • The legal framework
  • Copying and getting around DRM devices and measures
  • What if an effective technological measure prevents a permitted act?
  • Other potential issues with DRMs
  • Some examples
  • Striking a balance
  • Encrypted Media Extensions

This Practice Note explains the legal and practical issues relevant to digital rights management and discusses the extent to which technical devices and other protection measures can be used by rights owners to safeguard and manage their digital content. It also summarises the range of offences that may apply where technical protection devices or related measures are circumvented or management rights information is misused.

What is digital rights management?

Digital rights management (DRM) refers to the technical controls used by copyright owners of digital content to identify, track and protect their content.

DRM is used to prevent unauthorised copying, such as through encryption, so that only authorised programs and authorised users can access a particular digital file. DRM is also used to identify digital content and manage its delivery to end users, eg by monitoring the number of times a work has been accessed for the purpose of calculating the relevant royalty payable or to support business models such as online music subscription services. For example, DRM-based music streaming service Spotify ‘monitors’ its users’ access to free music content to ensure that they enjoy the service for a limited number of hours only before their free account ceases and they will need to move to a paid subscription.

The legal framework

Digital media such as computer programs, and online media