DRM is short for Digital Rights Management. It is an attempt to stop online piracy, and most commonly impacts music, movies, software, and video games.
Since you are using a computer now, I have no doubt that you have experienced DRM before. When you install software, and it requires you to jump though hoops like inputing a long alphanumeric code, that’s DRM. When you download music from any of the many legal download services and it doesn’t let you copy the music, that’s DRM.
Basically, it is anything that puts a barrier between you and making a duplicate of a specific product.
At it’s core, the idea isn’t awful. Personally, I am not too big on illegal downloads. Call me old-fashioned, but I really do prefer to buy CDs, DVDs, and video-games. Which brings me to a side-note.
A little geek lingo for you:
Freetard – A person who goes to great extremes to download things illegally.
Some freetards will go so far as refusing to buy books, music, movies, and software altogether. I have met a couple freetards who download more content than they could ever enjoy. Some just collect stuff because they can – you know who you are.
Paytard – A person who zealously purchases everything, and refuses to ever download anything illegally.
Back on topic now…
The problem with DRM is that it is usually breakable with a little bit of effort, and any self-respecting pirate will not only put in the effort to break the DRM, they will relish the process.
If you have to reformat your computer and reinstall certain DRM protected software, you might be stuck with all manner of annoying phone calls to tech-support just to get a new license for software that you legally purchased. Sometimes it becomes easier to either buy new software or, illegally download a new copy of the software that you purchased legally, just to get around the DRM.
So, what we are left with is a big annoying hassle for people like me who actually do buy things. DRM isn’t stopping piracy. In some cases it encourages it because when DRM becomes a nuisance, it becomes a really big problem for users. Checkout what EA did with the DRM on their new games Spore.
There have been many problems with music DRM. For example, checkout the Walmart DRM debacle.
DRM creation is expensive, and they are only creating new challenges that software pirates are all too happy to overcome. They only need to find one way to break DRM for it to become utterly useless.
So, companies should cut their losses, accept that piracy happens, and stop ruining the user-experience.
Maybe someone will come up with a non-obtrusive method of DRM that doesn’t break too easily, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.