DRM? Just a waste of time, say Microsoft researchers

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a waste of time and money, according to researchers at Microsoft –­ one of the biggest proponents of DRM technology. DRM is an attempt to prevent piracy by making it impossible to copy digital files such as those found on CDs and DVDs. Microsoft, which has put much of its marketing emphasis for Windows Media Player 8 and 9 on its DRM capabilities, has been trying to convince record company and movie studio executives that the best way to stop pirates is not to track them down and make examples of them as they did with Napster, but to ensure that it is simply impossible for them to make copies of data.

But a group of Microsoft’s own researchers have argued that history shows it is impossible to stop pirates and that it is easier and more cost-effective to focus on providing content at the same kind of price and at the same level of convenience as the pirates do.

Microsoft’s researchers argue that it was easy to shut down the Napster file-sharing network because there was a central group of servers needed to run the network. Newer networks such as Gnutella do not have the same flaw and so are impossible to shut down, even if they exist only on a small-scale, local level rather than globally.

While the answer given by Microsoft to the problem of pirates ­ DRM ­ looks more promising as a result, the researchers argue that the various technologies are always going to get broken and security keys will always get leaked.

“Proposals for systems involving mandatory watermark detection, in addition to severe commercial and social problems, suffer from several technical deficiencies which lead to their complete collapse. We conclude that such schemes are doomed to failure,” say the researchers.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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