What Is Digital Rights Management (DRM)? Everything You Need to Know

Oct 4, 2022


Digital rights management (DRM) has never been more important. Content is created, shared, modified, reshared, GIF-ified (if you will), and shared again at a lightning-fast pace. Consider these figures:

With numbers like these, how in the world can you protect your digital content and ensure your copyrighted material isn’t stolen and misused?

The answer is DRM.

What Is Digital Rights Management?

Digital rights management (usually referred to as DRM) is the practice of using technology, systems, and tools to protect copyrighted works from being illegally used, modified, sold, or otherwise distributed. Think of it as a way of enforcing digital property rights to mimic physical property rights.

For example, if you bought a CD from your favorite artist, there would be nothing wrong about you listening to it a thousand times. There wouldn’t be anything wrong (well, legally wrong) with you blasting it on your stereo as you make your way down the street. There also wouldn’t be anything inherently wrong with you letting your friend borrow the CD.

However, there would be something wrong with you burning the CD and giving it out to your pals or (worse) selling it for a profit. That’s what DRM aims to prevent—the unauthorized use, duplication, or distribution of protected content.

This criminal activity always hurts the original creator, no matter how innocent it may seem at times. It doesn’t matter if the content is shared privately with family members or publicly on social media—it’s still stealing.

Remember when online users visited sites like LimeWire, FrostWire, and Napster to stream, download, and trade music? That was before the evolution of modern-day DRM. Nowadays, creators can use up-to-date DRM technology to protect their content with little-to-no fuss.

What Are the Benefits of Digital Rights Management?

You invested time, money, sweat, and maybe even tears into your content. It’s yours, and it deserves to be protected. At a basic level, that’s what DRM software does—guards your copyright work. However, it provides other benefits too:

  • Defend your income: Content isn’t just nice to look at—it’s an income stream for many creators. Protecting your digital content ensures you get credit where credit is due and never lose a penny to leaks or unauthorized sharing.
  • Maintain ownership: Without DRM systems, stealing content can be as simple as copying and pasting. Protect your creative work, whether that’s an ebook, film, intellectual property, or YouTube video.
  • Educate customers: Let your buyers know the license agreements before they violate them. DRM helps you communicate with customers about what they can and can’t do with your content.
  • Keep it secret: Keep it safe. DRM software lets you secure sensitive files so that only the right users can access them.

How Does DRM Work?

Copyright laws should protect your digital media, but they’re about as effective as speed limits on the freeway. Ultimately, they’ll stop a few bad actors, but you need extra barriers to guarantee complete protection—and DRM systems provide the trenches and the barricades.

Creators using DRM can protect their content with well-written code or purpose-made applications. Developers can write code to restrict content copying and implement user restrictions, but you’ll need a coder, faith, and a hefty amount of cash. Instead, many copyright holders turn to apps built for content management and protection, like JW Player .

Here are a few ways DRM safeguards your digital assets and prevents copyright infringement:

  • Blocks: Code and applications can prevent users from doing screengrabs, screenshots, saves, forwards, or shares.
  • Expiration dates: Limit how long or the number of times end-users can access your content (useful for rentals or subscriptions).
  • User limits: Restrict the user counts, number of devices, locations, or IP addresses that can access your content (like with Netflix or YouTube TV).
  • Geographic fences: Choose who gets to consume your content (and how it’s rolled out) by limiting access to specific geographic locations.
  • Watermarks: Add watermarks to your videos and images to verify ownership.

How to Choose the Right DRM Technology

Not every DRM solution is created equally. Some use clunky apps and plugins that make it difficult for legitimate users to access, while others employ outdated security practices that bad actors can easily bypass. Do your due diligence before making a final decision.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing your DRM software solution:

  • Ease of use: Your platform of choice should be easy to use for both you and your end-users. If it’s too cumbersome and complicated, it might help your asset protection, but it’ll hurt your user experience.
  • Reliability: You need a platform with fast uploading and downloading speeds—plus, it needs proven uptime you can count on.
  • Adaptability: The best DRM solutions protect live streams, on-demand content, offline content, and more—which means you can protect more of your assets with fewer software subscriptions.
  • Security: Choose a platform with the latest-and-greatest technology and security best practices to ensure your content gets the protection it needs.
  • APIs: Ideally, your DRM tool will provide you with a combination of user interface dashboards and APIs to give you total flexibility and control over your content.

DRM software solutions often protect a variety of digital assets, but some are purpose-built for a specific type of content. For example, some might specialize in storing images, while another may focus on video. Choose the option that best meets your needs—more specializations isn’t always better.

Test any DRM tool before you make an investment. Most will offer a free trial or a sales demo—take advantage of these offers and get your hands dirty with the product.

Safeguard Your Digital Content With JW Player

Digital rights management isn’t a nice-to-have—it’s a need-to-have component of any asset management system. When you want top-notch protection for your digital content, don’t settle for less. Choose JW Player .

JW Player provides the complete video platform for independent creators and enterprises, and we don’t compromise when it comes to content protection. We provide HLS token signing, geo-blocking, 24/7 monitoring, 99.999% uptime, and studio-approved multi-DRM support for:

  • Microsoft PlayReady
  • Apple FairPlay
  • Google Widevine

Our easy-to-use JW Dashboard makes it easy to manage your DRM policies, but you can also leverage our APIs for more customization and control.

Don’t just take our word for it—see for yourself. Give our 30-Day Free Trial a try to get hands-on experience with the JW Player platform.