The copying and redistribution of information has been part and parcel of business publishing for years. While never condoning the practice, companies have largely accepted this nevertheless illegal practice as part of a trust-based commercial landscape, often turning a blind eye to the financial losses involved.

The advent of email, online services and other electronic publishing aids has made it even easier than ever for copyrighted material to be redistributed without permission. For example, the sharing of usernames and passwords has become commonplace. While every company has a story to tell, few have been able to establish persistently effective counter measures.

The lack of action stems from either an assumption that nothing can be done, or that the solution is likely to be disproportionately expensive to implement and inconvenient for both the information provider and consumer alike to use. When the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM) is raised people immediately think of technology and software – ‘technical protection measures’ that can be taken to enforce rights. But DRM is so much more than this.

What is DRM?

“The term ‘digital rights management’ (DRM) is an umbrella term for a range of technologies for managing the buying and selling of intellectual property in digital form. At its broadest, DRM can be used to mean a technical framework for managing all policy towards digital material.”

EPS FOCUS Report: ‘DRM: Still a Balancing Act?’

This can include a range of actions from the publication of clear terms and conditions of sale at an appropriate point in the customer engagement process, highly visible “psychodeterents”, usage vigilance, data lock-down, and finally, enforcement. This is likely to be a combination of good business practice, and flexible technology.

“…the real requirement at the moment is not about enforcement of rights specifically but about the whole business of expressing and, where necessary, enforcing policies with respect to access and use. My preference is to use the term Digital Policy Management. It’s about the ability to express policies, the ability to report on them after the event and in my view it’s more about data than it is application.”

Mark Bide, Rightscom, from EPS FOCUS Report: ‘DRM: Still a Balancing Act?’

Our view
At Connaught we view Digital Rights Management as a series of processes and technologies for the protection of intellectual property or sensitive data in an electronic environment. It can be applied by both small and large businesses in a wide range of applications.

Why use DRM?

“Digital rights management systems….. allow publishers to exploit digital content according to the rights associated with it while preventing (as far as possible) piracy and copyright abuse. They are vital if publishers are to implement paid content business models online and are important for enabling a diverse range of models. DRM systems can manage if, how and when individuals can access content…..

They can also provide publishers with useful information on how consumers are interacting with their content by making it easier to keep track of usage.”

EPS FOCUS Report: ‘DRM: Still a Balancing Act?’

How does DRM work?
DRM can only work effectively if it is applied throughout the business model – that is everything from clear statements of how information can be used in buying contracts and order forms, through to licence agreements and technology to control access.

DRM and text publishers

“Text publishers face a wider variety of options when it comes to applying DRM to a piece of content. A piece of text can have DRM software attached that prevents the file from being duplicated, or from being opened on more than a specific number of alternative devices, but restrictions can also be placed on the amount of text that can be printed, or copied and pasted by the user into another document.

In the text-publishing industry, it’s important that the information about these usage rights for a piece of text is communicated clearly at the point of purchase and the point of use. For a file that is sold to a customer via the web this means a clear definition of what the user can expect. For products that are designed for use on a library network, publishers and libraries need to work together to ensure that any information regarding restrictions on usage rights is presented to the user when they find the content .”

EPS FOCUS Report: ‘DRM: Still a Balancing Act?’

Is DRM effective?
Yes, when it is applied properly. There are essentially three stages to effective implementation:

  1. User Understanding:
    If you do not have clear statements as to how your data can be used, then there is a chance that staff and customers will unwittingly misuse it. In addition to getting clearly written terms and conditions agreed at inception, a range of “psychodeterents” can be employed, such as “This material is only to be used John Smith. No redistribution in whole or part allowed” on all materials.
  2. Vigilance:
    Connaught ’s managed communications services monitors email delivery and forwarding of clients’ data. When armed with such business intelligence, companies are in a stronger position to act or negotiate with their customers and suppliers.
  3. Access control:
    Connaught can help you define and control access to your data at various levels, including persistent protection for a whole range of file formats including html, MS Word, MS Excel, MP3, QuickTime and pdf files, in cases where misuse is suspected or known. Such protection can be applied selectively, and thereby does not need to impact on all staff/customers. However, where the appropriate perceptions of content value and distribution risk apply, it may be appropriate to provide persistent protection across the board.

Do we need DRM and how can we employ it?
If the answer to the question: “Do I think I have a problem with the misuse of my electronically held material?” is “Yes” then your organisation is at least aware of the issue. What you do next, and how you employ DRM, depends on what you define as the problem and how serious you believe it may be. Whatever the circumstances, Connaught can help.

Isn’t DRM really expensive and complicated to use?
Not at all. What is your information worth? What opportunity cost in terms of lost revenues does theft or the unwanted distribution of commercial or private information present? This question often arises from a misunderstanding that DRM is all about technical protection. Some aspects of DRM carry no cost at all, others will need software development and systems in place. DRM can be incorporated into in-house systems or, often more cost effectively, flexibly outsourced as a managed service.

Click here for a copy of Connaught’s document protection pricing overview.

Do I have to apply the same level of protection to everyone?
No, not at all. Connaught’s document protection service enables you to apply varying degrees of control and protection to different customers.

Are there alternatives to DRM that could be used to enforce rights?

“If media companies wish to simply rely on the backing of the law to enforce their rights, they are dependent largely on trusting consumers not to misuse the content they make available without DRM. This clearly carries an element of risk.”

EPS FOCUS Report: ‘DRM: Still a Balancing Act?’

How do I know if DRM could help us?
If you create and manage intellectual property or sensitive data electronically then DRM has a role to play. Exactly what that role is, how it is evaluated and implemented will be down to circumstances specific to you and your customers.

dotEncrypt document protection
Connaught has recently further enhanced its capabilities and now offers clients a range of access control features to support their external communications. These include multiple format document security both up to and beyond the desktop, utilising the web based dotEncrypt application, which has been developed based on market proven technology from SealedMedia www.sealedmedia.com.

For more information on dotEncrypt please visit our site at www.dotencrypt.com.

Click here for information on dotEncrypt pricing.

Connaught thanks Electronic Publishing Services for permission to include the above quotes from its EPS Focus Report: ‘DRM: Still a Balancing Act?’. To obtain a copy of the full report and to find out more about EPS’s services in general visit www.epsltd.com.

To discuss how Connaught could take your communications pain away, call Connaught on +44 (0)20 8755 6978, or email your enquiry to enquiries@connaught.co.uk.