This article has been written by Vibhuti Thakur, pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws and has been edited by Oishika Banerji (Team Lawsikho).
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
Living in the digital world, violations of one’s rights are just a click away. Such rights are digital in nature, that is technology is involved in such rights. Since such rights are intangible, these rights are also known as incorporeal rights. The rapid technological advancements are a big challenge from the perspective of law as the pace of growth of both is comparable. With the help of torrent sites and applications like Telegram, data is being exchanged which otherwise is not for unauthorised use. In order to prevent digital rights from being violated, copied and circulated in an unauthorised manner, Digital Rights Management (hereinafter called as DRM) is implemented. DRM protects data from copy or leak but it cannot protect the data which has already been spread from being circulated. This article is dedicated to discussing DRM as a new form of copyright in the ‘Go Virtual’ era.
What is DRM
Digital Rights Management or DRM can be understood as the use of technology to control and manage access to copyrighted material. Put simply, legal access to digital content is managed by DRM. Digital media is now the new vogue involving the usage of technology to allow software developers and digital media producers to impose access controls on their product(s), such as limitations on usage, reproduction, modification, and distribution.
Where are DRM systems used
The domain of DRM system usage is huge. Here are a few fields where DRM plays a significant role:
- Sensitive information: This system disables the copying, saving or unauthorised use of sensitive information of businesses and companies e.g., their trade secrets, confidential information of the employees and all the financial details.
- Discoveries and inventions: Such systems have proven to be a boon for the new generation of scientists, researchers and engineers, for they help safeguard the patented work of the inventor or discoverer.
- Artistic work: Music, movie and other forms of artistic expression are today shielded from piracy and other forms of unauthorised use due to DRM systems.
- Business brand and logos: The logos and brand name hold a very heavy weightage in the business’s reputation and goodwill. In order to prevent undue and unwarranted advantage by other competitors in business DRM plays an effective role.
The mechanism for DRM to function
In the oceanic world of the internet, it is very hard to monitor each and every activity on each device. Thus, it is easier to protect the data at its source i.e., it should be protected from piracy by limiting and restraining its distribution. The DRM works through three main components:
- Secured distribution: The author (the owner of the copyrighted data) can put a bar on the distribution of his/her data. He can provide data for consideration for a specific period and can prevent users from reviewing, editing, copying or sharing the data. He can set a limit as to the number of licensees and can track the use of such data.
- Encryption: The author by digital encryption can protect the data from being read, copied or pirated by containing the data in an unreadable format. Later this data can be decrypted, where the data is again converted into a readable format. Such decryption can only be done by the person who is authorised to read the data. This technique is very commonly used in Whatsapp Messenger.
- Watermark: Another component which helps to protect digital information is Watermark. It is a specific mark or logo attached to every piece of data which protects the copyrighted data from unlicensed use.
Apart from this, there are various other ways to protect the data from unauthorised use:
- Limiting the number of distributions e.g certain PDFs can only be circulated to a limited number of devices.
- Preventing the screenshot or saving the content e.g Facebook does not allow the screenshot to display pictures.
- Unavailability of data to non-payers, e.g, Spotify or iTunes.
- Restricting the use by granting or restricting the software from the use of certain information.
Benefits of the DRM mechanism
In earlier times when a certain piece of information, work of art or a book was created, it was shared by way of creating copies. It was then distributed among the masses. The end user only had a copy of the original work. But now in the digital world this mechanism is futile. Thus, DRM plays a key role in the protection of digital data, work of art or literature or any other confidential information.
- It protects the rights and content of content creators, movie makers, and music artists from being live-streamed, piracy and unauthorised use.
- In social media, this technology helps in protecting personal data, such as pictures, videos, contact details and even payment details.
- It protects unique inventions and discoveries by saving the patents in the name of the scientist. It protects the ownership of the work of such scientists. Moreover, the Author or the creator of such content or copyrighted material gets a better way of licensing and authorising the use of his work. He/She can even charge for the authorised use of such information or work, hence, it creates an opportunity of income generation.
Challenges posed by DRM systems
Besides having these incredible DRM systems there are still a bunch of challenges in the operation of DRM systems and protection of data. A few of such challenges are listed below.
- Compatibility: The device must be compatible with the DRM support system in order to operate properly for the security of the data. If there is incompatibility, then the purpose of DRM is defeated.
- Interoperability: This is also similar to incompatibility where DRM should be able to work with contemporary technologies and platforms.
- Hacking: Regardless of how advanced the protection is, certain hackers manage to hack into the authorised data. Such hackers stay one step ahead of the DRM system and find a way to bypass the security system.
- Lack of unified DRM systems: Due to the lack of one single unified DRM system the user has to buy multiple DRM systems in order to secure his content from copying, piracy and stealing completely.
- Public view: There exists a divided public opinion regarding the mode of functioning of DRM. The user generally has to buy a subscription per month or year to protect the said data. On one side there is a need for DRM to content creators who are not financially sound. Such technology must be provided to them free of cost. But on the other hand, there is a requirement of infrastructure and capital to run an advanced business that could provide up-to-the-date solutions for the most recent technologies.
DRM in India
In India, there are statutes like the Copyright Act of 1957 and Information Technology Act, 2000 for the regulation and control of the infringement of copyrighted data. Under the Information Technology Act, 2000, Section 79 provides for the exemption from liability of intermediaries in certain cases. Intermediaries here include the DRM service providers.
The Copyrights Act, 1957 which was recently amended in 2012 contains provisions like Section 65A and 65B which authorises and protects the actions of DRM. These sections make any alteration, modification or distribution of the DRM system without authority punishable with imprisonment of up to 2 years and a fine.
It protects the literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work of the creator. The copyright usually lasts for 60 years from the next year of the publication year. It also protects the rights of Government work, public undertakings, international agencies, etc.
For copyright infringement in India, the basic remedies which are available are:
- Civil remedies like damages and injunctions.
- Criminal remedies like imprisonment and fines under Chapter XIII of the Copyrights Act, 1957.
- Administrative remedies like the detention of such information or data by the authorities concerned.
Over the last few decades, the requirement of DRM has rapidly increased due to the advancement of the technology and internet and new AI-based platforms and institutions. Since the new advancements are still taking place DRM is going to be a much-needed tool for the protection of the incorporeal digital rights of the people and institutions. There is a necessity for a unified and much-regulated system of Digital rights management which may evolve over a period of time in the near future. The European Commission is supporting the development of the same and also advancing and facilitating legal copying and re-use of content to the paid users and preventing the misuse of such information. In future, the law relating to copyright is destined to become more advanced and stricter. The DRM systems will become more efficient in tracking the copyright breach and there might be stricter rules and bye-laws worldwide for the protection of the intellectual property.
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