New Protection against Online Pirates: Advancements in Digital Rights Management Guard against Theft of Online Content. (New Media)

By Jenkins, Caroline | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, January 2002 | Go to article overview

New Protection against Online Pirates: Advancements in Digital Rights Management Guard against Theft of Online Content. (New Media)


Jenkins, Caroline, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Whether you believe Napster is simply the conduit for music swapping or the distributor of stolen property; one thing is certain: Napster's fight against the Goliaths of the music industry has brought peer-to-peer tile sharing and Internet piracy national attention. The music industry, however, is not alone in this battle. Anyone with unprotected material on the Internet--everything from Napster's sound files to electronic versions of magazine articles--has cause for concern. As the Napster case shows, digital content can be easily copied, without quality degradation, and subsequently distributed to large numbers of recipients at the touch of a button.

To defend against casual theft and/or outright piracy, content providers are taking a look at a process called digital rights management. The nascent technology is an anti-theft device of sorts that manages copyrights and usage. Simply put, digital rights management gives publishers the ability to create rules dictating the use of digital content, as well as the ability to modify those rules even after content distribution. These "rules" cover such aspects as ownership, payment, promotion and privacy.

The technology couldn't be more timely. As Web businesses evolve, publishers are putting more and more content online and adding functionality, including in-depth database and archive searches. At the same time, publishers are hunting for additional Web-based profit centers. Digital rights management lets publishers protect their valuable Web content, and creates new revenue channels by charging access and usage fees.

Programmers initially developed digital rights management as a security measure protecting proprietary programming code and classified military information. Owners of these documents controlled access to them with passwords and complicated viewing devices. Now these systems are being used by a broader span of companies. Those with the appropriate technology "package" the electronic content by encrypting it and generating an electronic key and ID for subscribers. Usage rules, rights and cross-promotions for other published content, as well as events and merchandise advertisements, can be included with the content. The company then distributes the package via the Internet, by e-mail, or using physical media, such as a Zip disk or CD, for a fee. A digital rights management system monitors transactions with readers, tracks usage/copying, and distributes subscriber payments to the appropriate recipients.

Now the publisher of an e-mail newsletter, for instance, can profit from each and every person who accesses the information. Publishers can charge subscribers and pass-along readers. Previously, a publisher had limited control over the content once it was distributed. But digital rights management allows the publisher to impose certain limitations. The recipient of a forwarded newsletter, for example, might not be able to read it without being prompted to subscribe. Or the publisher might chose to disallow the forwarding or printing of the newsletter altogether and allow access only to the subscriber-and for a limited period of time. Through digital rights management, the publisher can specify usage conditions and change them at any time.

This type of management of content opens doors to all kinds of possibilities:

* Additional revenue via pay per-per-view models. Publishers can charge per article, rather than a whole subscription, and can also charge for using databases and archived material.

* New, Internet-specific product marketing. A publisher sponsoring a conference, for example, might decide to market and attach digital rights to a real-time broadcast over the Internet of a particular lecture or online conference.

* Conversion of pass-along readers to subscribers. Publishers can permit access to subscribers only, forcing secondary readers to subscribe as well.

* Advanced targeting. …

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New Protection against Online Pirates: Advancements in Digital Rights Management Guard against Theft of Online Content. (New Media)
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