The Most Important Factor in Digital Rights Management

Digital Right Management (or DRM) means “taking action to prevent illegal copying of digital products”. That definition might not hold in court, so those who want more information go read some book about DRM or read wikipedia, but for this article it’s clear enough. I believe one of the most important factors in DRM is how they will use it to make sure customers (those who legally buy their products) can enjoy their products, while minimizing the impact of piracy.

In a perfect world, digital rights management would keep pirates at bay and let customers happily pay for their products. But unfortunately we live in a world where DRM is sometimes keeping customers at bay, and letting pirates eventually get a way around it.

Recently, there was a huge fight about DRM, when digg users were revealing HD-DVD disc copyright encryption. The admins deleted the digg post, but users got so angry that they started posting and digging even more stories revealing the encryption. Soon the encryption was revealed in so many posts that the administrators couldn’t control it anymore – they had to give up, and let users post the stories. For more information about this incident, read what Forbes reported or do a search for Google. Basically this incident shows how there’s always way to hack encryptions. No matter what kind of copyright system you use, there’s always a hack for it.

And as companies try to keep up with the pace of hackers… they might forget their customers.

Has any of the following things happened to you:

  • You cannot skip movie copyright notice (even if you press MENU) – even when you bought a legal DVD. In pirate version you don’t have this problem (so I’ve heard). And I must really think how hard could it be to let me (the owner of the DVD) to skip the notices the way I want. No wonder people pirate stuff.
  • Have you ever bought a game, forgot key codes and then couldn’t install the digital product again – or that it was made annoying for you?.
  • Have you thought about buying a console game (when abroad) just to notice that it’s “for different region”, and left the product in a store.
  • Or have you bought a game, and then found out that you cannot install it on your second computer because of “security reasons”?

Yet companies wonder why their don’t have customers. No wonder “piracy is killing their sales”, since DRM is “forcing” people to use pirated software!

Okay, that’s a “bit” exaggerated statement, but I’m sure you get the point that DRM might annoy in some cases.

While companies might have “legal reasons” for doing this they are forgetting the most important rule: it’s the customers in the end that pay your salary. The more they keep annoying their customers, the less customers they end up having. When movies, video and games DRM systems push the customers too far, companies start losing customers.

Bottom line
I want to make this really clear: I’m in favor of some kind of copyright measures. I’m in favor of digital rights management – when it’s executed properly. I’m also favoring customer above everything. The DRM system must be done so that it has some copyright restrictions, but it must be done so that (so called) honest customers can purchase, use and enjoy their products easily – without even knowing about DRM.

As the digital products become more popular, the greater importance DRM will have. I believe this will become one of the most important issues in digital rights management in the future – and the customers must be put above everything.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Well it can be mathematically proved that EVERYTHING can be cracked (except for serial checking on the server side, as Sargon said).

    So I think there’s no use for thinking about whatever security stuff you could use, because it just wastes your time and nerves. I might equip our products with the most basic stuff, which doesn’t take a day to implement (perhaps encoding your register-strings and such), but that would be just enough. If someone wants to crack something, he can do it, and it’s very unlikely that he had purchased it anyway.

    Rather than thinking about DRM all day, people should focus on making very good products, so they will sell loads of it and are able to tolerate those pirated copies as well. Also, piracy is an important factor in marketing your product, I think the shareware way of Doom related very much on the “copy it to all your friends” and “word of mouth” strategy, and piracy can mean the same at least a little bit.

  2. Well, I always wonder if there is any use for a serial key in a product, since it can be hacked anyway, so why even bother?
    What does this serial key suppose to protect my software from?
    However, there are some more robust protections out there. They are internet protection.
    Like in WOW, your key is checked in the server side, so there is no way to hack it. And if a key abuse is discovered then it is banned.
    But what pirates do in this case is simply copying the server side software of WOW, and copy all the updates and open their own pirate server. Luckily the pirate server are never as good as the official server so the pirated have a lesser game experience.
    I have also seen a startup company that developes a special internet protection to games.
    That is, their product compiles your software such that most of the machine code is compiled as usual, but part of it is not compiled into the final product but rather compiled to be kept in the server.
    So if you want to play the game you have to connect to a server, because a actual crucial part of the machine code of the game is on the server. But it suppose to work fast anyway and the protection problem is about protecting the server not the game at the client.

  3. 1. I do buy dvd’s, alot, good thing that I can skip those comrs. I hope it stays that way, one thing I hate is being forced to watch useless ads that don’t make any sense to me.

    2. I bought Supreme Commander, it just does not work with my dvd-drive. Thanks dvd-protection. You managed to save me from playing and becomming a serial killer :). But I did manage to get it installed. I copied the dvd in my other machine, transfered the files over the network to my #1 machine and then installed. It worked, but damn it took too long.

    3. There is lot of games I would like to get but alas, there is this thing called regioning. Makes no sense to me. We release this game in japan but nowhere else. Great.

    Now they’re ever changing the name of DRM to DCE. Digital Consumer Enablement. I wonder what the hell someone in charge is thinking?

  4. I for example like what some game companies do.

    I recently bought DooM 3 + the expansion pack in english (I don’t like spanish translations) and I was searching for a crack to not need to have the original CDs inserted, while installing the latest patch (1.3.1). And… what a surprise than since the 1.2 version, the game doesn’t asks for CD, just checks the CD-Key over internet.
    Thats a good copyright measure, because doesn’t annoys me and still allows them to deactivate pirate copies of Doom 3.

    I need to have a “Crack repository” for my videogames because some games don’t run if they detect I’ve got Daemon Tools installed (Starforce & similar protections, there are more than just game ISOs out there!), and I have all my games in 200 CD/DVD folders/wallets, instead of their plastic boxes, so It’s a pain to search for the CD…

    My opinion goes something like this:
    If I’ve paid for some software, ask everything at install time and don’t bother me later.

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