Guide

Fulfilling online orders

Digital rights management

Major problems associated with selling digital products online include:

  • protecting the copyright of data
  • preventing illegal sharing of this data 

Digital rights management (DRM) technologies address both these issues.

In its most common form, DRM protects intellectual property by either:

  • encrypting the data so that it can only be accessed by authorised users
  • marking the content can be marked with a digital watermark, so that it can't be freely distributed

DRM can also track who is using what content, where and when.

DRM can allow the release of multiple versions of a single document. Each group of users can only access the version meant for them. This can be used to restrict disclosure on a need-to-know basis. It could also help create new business for commercial products. This could be by offering the recipients of a free summary version of a research report the chance to pay to upgrade to the full report.

The digital rights that DRM can protect

DRM systems can protect against the following threats to your digital rights:

  • Render rights cover acts such as displaying content on a screen or playing it through an audio system. These are protected by encryption systems allowing only the right users to render the content.
  • Transport rights relate to the ability to move or copy the data. In this area it can be difficult to balance the rights owner's interests with the user's fair expectations, eg to make backups.
  • Derivative work rights cover the ability of users to change or extract the content and use it in another way. Here, there will need to be flexible ways of identifying separate parts of the content, tracking the different ways in which they are used and, where necessary, collecting payment for them.

Used creatively, DRM can do much more than protect intellectual property and commercially sensitive material - it can also protect and even enhance revenue.