How Seriously Should You Take Digital Rights Management?



Digital rights management (DRM) is a broad term that refers to any mechanism or strategy that controls who can view or possess a digital file, and it’s becoming an increasingly important consideration for many companies. But just how seriously should you take your own DRM policies and capabilities? And is it really worth your investment?

Most important applications for DRM

Though DRM could be used for an incredibly large array of different files and data, there are three main applications that most business owners should consider:

  • Confidential documents. First, you’ll need to think about the confidential documents and proprietary information shared within your team. If you use a cloud storage platform like Google Drive, you’ll need to take control over who can access the documents found within, and how those documents can be accessed and/or changed. This is usually to protect the integrity of your documents (so they can’t be manipulated), to prevent the possibility of intellectual theft, or both. It’s also helpful for securing your documents when you send them over email, so they self-destruct after a certain period of time.

  • Copyright protection. It’s also helpful for securing copyright protection, especially in this era of piracy. Good DRM controls can limit the number of times a piece of media can be copied, and may be able to control who accesses it. For example, you may allow a DVD to be copied only once using conventional methods.

  • Controlled access. DRM is also important to keep your demos and other applications for controlled access secretive (and, by definition, under control). For example, you might limit the number of devices a certain file can be installed on.

Factors to consider

If you have files or business operations that fall into one of the above categories, you should have a DRM strategy in place. That begs the question—how, exactly, should you create that strategy?

You’ll need to consider both the conceptual side (deciding which types of interactions need DRM protections, and how those protections manifest) and the practical side (how you’ll enforce those rules). But let’s start with the conceptual side, for simplicity.

There are several factors you’ll need to consider:

  • Viewing rights. First, you’ll need to think about viewing rights—in other words, who can see this file, who can access it, and how many times they can access it. For example, you might be able to password-protect your file so only the intended recipient may view it, or allow the file to be seen only once before self-destructing.

  • Copying rights. You may also want to restrict the number of times a file may be copied. For confidential documents, you may prohibit copying altogether, and for media, you might limit the number of copies that can be made per consumer.

  • Sharing rights. “Sharing” is a term that can refer to several actions, but you can restrict all of them with the right DRM strategy. The idea here is to prevent someone from using their access to allow someone else to view the file.

  • Printing rights. Copying and sharing in a digital format aren’t the only forms of duplication that you need to worry about—you may also be concerned about someone printing those confidential files and emails. DRM can help you restrict those printing rights, keeping your file in purely digital format, or detect when someone does try to print it.

  • Alteration rights. One of the easier decisions will likely be deciding who can alter your file, when they can alter it, and how they can alter it. User permissions may allow you to designate several people who can freely access your content, but restrict what they’re able to do with it. This is especially important in team settings, where a single change could affect how the document is seen and used.

Putting the plan in place

Once you decide how you want to execute your DRM strategy—if you need one in the first place—you’ll need some enforcement logic to ensure those rules are followed. To do that, you’ll either need to purchase and use a tool that’s already on the market, or you’ll need to call on your software developers to make one of your own.

Whatever you choose, you should know that DRM is going to be relevant to more industries and even more important as time goes on. The time is now to start compiling and executing your business’s strategy.