Today, the 6th of May is being celebrated as the International Day against DRM or Digital Rights Management. Digital Rights Management is understood as “the practice of imposing technological restrictions that control what users can do with digital media.” These restrictions can be on hardware or software and it can restrict users from performing lawful activities such as being able to repair or modify the things that they own. As Defective By Design puts it, “When a program is designed to prevent you from copying or sharing a song, reading an ebook on another device, or playing a single-player game without an Internet connection, you are being restricted by DRM.” Cited examples of DRM include anti-features on YouTube which prevent customers from viewing their media in certain countries or on certain number of devices.
DRM is usually justified as a measure of copyright protection. However, it is argued by advocates against DRM that this is not the purpose of DRM. DRM’s purpose is to restrict access to media and is completely unrelated to the distribution of media, which is where copyright protection kicks in. By restricting access through DRM, it becomes possible for media and technology companies to control your use of the digital media. The effect of DRM has grown worse in the USA as a result of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which makes it a crime to bypass DRM or to even spread the knowledge of how to do so. The chilling effect of such anti-circumvention policies on free speech has been recognized by organisations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation as it turns traditionally permissible access to or use of digital media into a violation of the law. These policies are found under S.65A of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 as well. Swaraj’s article on the same at the amendment stage, where he argued that it is not the most effective method of copyright protection, considering the transaction costs, privacy and security concerns that it raises can be found here. Amlan’s post on S.65A and the Delhi HC’s decision relating to it is available here.