4 Common Misconceptions About Digital Rights Management

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If you’ve ever signed up for a website, used a messaging platform, or consumed visual media, you’ve encountered digital rights management. Yet the use of DRM tools in a platform or piece of media can often generate controversy. From the perspective of users, these tools tend to be considered an intrusion and independent of the product itself. 

Indeed, restrictive processes can have adverse effects on user experience, and this commonly causes misconceptions regarding DRM’s origin and purpose.

Here are four of these misconceptions detailed, explained, and examined.

1. DRM Technology Is Always Conceptually Separate From the Product Itself

Oftentimes, content owners will implement extraneous security services into their products to save time and money. One example could be a video game technology that identifies and punishes hackers for breaching conduct rules. This isn’t universal, however; DRM can also refer to owner-altered/added code within the product. This code, which changes how certain aspects of the product are presented, can be as simple as a user interface change. 

Further, DRM can be integral to the product in that its inherent design is often a linchpin of the product’s public presentation. Streaming services are a good example of this, particularly freemium platforms like Hulu (as it was originally conceived, anyhow). 

While other streaming platforms offered only paid plans, Hulu stood out by integrating DRM to provide a free plan with advertising support. Because Hulu created this uncommon offer at the time, the act positively influenced the public’s perception of the service. By lowering the barrier to entry (i.e., lack of a paywall), Hulu exemplified DRM’s structural importance to a product.

2. DRM Applies Only to the Prevention of Piracy

Digital rights management is often mentioned in relation to cases of breached copyright because piracy prevention is one of its most important applications. Without it, your product can be used, shared, and altered by anyone, anywhere — effectively revoking your ownership status. 

That said, you can use the technology for more than just preventing unauthorized access. DRM can also help you establish your audience. One common method is to allow access to content through a one-time or recurring payment. Without this payment, which helps to fund your content creation efforts, a consumer will not have the right to use the product. 

You can also employ tools to monitor your content’s usage and use the data to direct advertising integration. Video-based platforms like Aux Mode, which developed a SaaS revenue reporting software to make these calculations, can help streamline this monetization process.

3. DRM Methods Are Always Restrictive or Inconvenient

DRM allows you to control your product’s distribution, and as a result, it is often employed for just this reason. Consider a skit that contains imagery banned in a certain country. If you post it, it might get removed from a platform entirely. 

Using digital rights management, you can region-lock the video, protecting your revenue stream and ensuring your future ability to post permitted content. While the ban disadvantages users in certain regions, using DRM in this way ensures continued audience access to your content overall.

It is also important to evaluate the accessibility of alternative products and content sources when considering DRM methods. On a digital media store, for example, paying $5 to watch a movie may seem expensive. A number of streaming services offer many movies for free — and there’s an abundance of options for downloading films illegally. But the latter involves risk, both of potential legal action and the possibility of downloading viruses. If the film is not available anywhere else, paying $5 for security and instant access becomes much more attractive.

4. DRM Implementation Will Only Prevent Growth

Consumers certainly get frustrated when an app they’ve been curious about requires a prohibitive subscription even to try it out. Why should they pay for a month of use when they were never all that married to it in the first place? 

It’s true; this kind of digital rights management implementation can and often does push users away instead of locking them in. But DRM does not inherently repel consumers. If your product has value and uses DRM appropriately, the opposite is likely.

Imagine the same scenario but with the app offering a free 7-day trial. Upon testing it, the user realizes that it does everything they hoped for and more. Suddenly the price doesn’t seem so bad. These new elements (the free trial and benefits realization) are the draw, and the former actively promotes growth through DRM. As long as you employ a balance of restrictive and welcoming methods, your product will ultimately speak for itself.

DRM is a versatile and multifaceted system. Not only can it restrict unauthorized usage, but it also allows creators freedoms that can then benefit the user base. With the control it provides, creators can protect their content and continue to make more. 

Of course, DRM is not perfect. If it were, these misconceptions wouldn’t exist, nor would these important questions be asked. But it is the best defense for digital content owners, who will continue to embrace its advantages for the foreseeable future.

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Becca Williams is a writer, editor, and small business owner. She writes a column for Smallbiztechnology.com and many more major media outlets.