EMI Goes DRM Free

So the big news today is that EMI is going DRM free.

A few months ago, in a hotel room in King of Prussia, I had a short debate with Brad and Jim (CEO and CTO of the company I work for). 

One of the technologies that we circle around frequently is Microsoft’s Information Rights Management Server.  The gist of it is that it allows administrators to control the actions a user can perform on a document such as printing, emailing, copy/pasting text, and so on.  In short, it is a software solution to controlling distribution of a document, much like DRM when it comes to distribution of digital media like music and movies.

However, to me, this has always seemed like a big sham.  Why?  Because any user that wanted to counter this could do so quite easily.  It only adds a false sense of security, which is doubly dangerous if the documents in question are highly sensitive. 

For example, if printing were to be disabled on a document, the user could still use print screen to capture the image and print that instead.  Disable print screen, and the user can still take pictures with a high resolution digital camera.  Force employees to check all digital devices before entering the building, and the employee can still take notes by hand.

In short, IRM, like DRM, simply presents an encumberance to legitimate users of the digital content while not preventing losses to anyone that really wants the information or content illegitimately.  As we’ve seen in the DRM space, no form of digital rights management will ever work.  Ever. 

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