DRM: What is Digital Rights Management?
DRM technology protects and helps authors of digital files to secure their property. For users, DRM is rather annoying. In this article we will tell you what the standard actually is and how the technology works exactly.
Many internet and computer users ask themselves: What is DRM?. As DRM includes many different fields we try to explain it in a concise way:
- The abbreviation DRM stands for “Digital Rights Management”. It allows the originators of various digital files to control and protect them.
- Among other things, songs, films, e-books and PDF files are provided with DRM protection. The information required for DRM protection is enclosed directly with the respective file. Similar to the title or year of publication and other meta information, it is stored as information within the files.
- DRM protection is also often found in online video libraries. DRM protection can, for example, provide that the downloaded film can only be viewed for 30 days or can only be played once.
- In theory, every file can be protected with DRM. The author of the file can then decide which rights are granted. This includes the rights to view, edit, borrow, share or copy files.
How to reset DRM license in Windows 10 with a tool
To play DRM-protected content in the Windows Media Player, the player must acquire the media usage rights. But what if they can’t be purchased or updated? Since this question keeps coming up in forums, we have done some research and describe the relevant approaches in this article.
The idea for this post came to us through this current forum inquiry at MS-Answers. The user had changed the mainboard of the computer and now the media usage rights were missing. A second case was: The required media usage rights (DRM) could not be updated either.
Microsoft’s FAQ on DRM
The first source for questions about DRM issues should lead to this Windows Media Player DRM FAQ. This is related to Windows 7 and Windows 10 and gives answers to various questions. It also outlines how Windows Media Player must be set up to automatically acquire media usage rights.
WMP settings for media usage rights
To ensure that Windows Media Player can acquire the necessary media usage rights for a DRM-protected title, follow these steps.
- In WMP, select the Organize button and then select Options. Here you can see the WMP 12 under Windows 7. If you cannot find the Options command, press the Alt key. Then a menu appears with the Tools command to access the options.
- Then, on the Privacy tab, make sure that the Automatically purchase media usage rights check box is selected. If it is, press the OK button to close the tab.
Repairing/resetting media usage rights that cannot be updated
Problems always occur when media usage rights cannot be updated because the associated files are corrupted. A similar case occurs when replacing hardware. In this case, the media usage rights no longer match the existing hardware and the WMP refuses to play the media files. The WMP might then display a dialog box.
On the http://go.microsoft.com page, Microsoft provides the DRMReset.exe tool to reset corrupted DRM entries. To do this, you must stop the Windows Media Player Network Sharing service by using Task Manager or Services. Then run the DRMReset.exe tool to reset the DRM information.
However, the tool DRMReset.exe has a serious disadvantage: In the currently available version, it only runs up to WMP 11, while the current WMP 12 will display the error message “Installing the tool requires Windows Media Player 11”.
A possible solution (which we have never tried) would be to right-click on the Tool DRMReset.exe file, go to Properties in the context menu and then set a compatibility setting for Windows XP or Windows 10 on the Compatibility tab. The tool might then run successfully.
Other popular DRM systems
Copy protection with Adobe DRM
This is especially the case with Adobe’s copy protection. The U.S. company offers business customers the option of protecting eBooks against unauthorized copying with its in-house DRM.
The whole thing is usually simply referred to as Adobe DRM and is the most common copy protection for eBooks outside of Amazon. It is used by virtually all providers, which means that you don’t have to worry too much about buying a new eBook Reader, and in most cases you can continue to use the eBooks you have already purchased. The exception to this rule is Amazon with the Kindle system (see next point).
The biggest problem of the Adobe system is the sometimes unnecessarily complicated access. To use it, you need a shop user account as well as one at Adobe. The purchased eBooks are then linked to the Adobe ID so that they can only be opened if the reader has been authorized with it.
Kindle ecosystem as an adversary
The second major DRM system comes from Amazon and is directly integrated into the Kindle ecosystem. There is no external service provider involved, which makes it more convenient for customers to use, as they only need to log in with their Amazon account and start reading. A further registration is not necessary here.
Because Amazon automatically links the purchased eBook readers with the user account, you don’t even have to enter the login data during activation. This makes it very easy to get a Kindle eReader up and running.
The biggest disadvantage of the system, however, is that it is closed. While Adobe DRM is open to all interested (and paying) business customers, Amazon’s system is an exclusive in-house product and cannot be used by other eBook providers. As a result, the vast majority of shops do not offer eBooks in Kindle format (which would be possible without DRM).
The terms of Service are basically very similar to Adobe eBooks, so that the buyer only purchases a license to use the file, but does not own the file.
Sensible alternative: Soft copy protection
Even in the case of soft copy protection (or soft DRM), agreed licensing terms between the dealer and the buyer apply. However, copy protection is not aimed at creating a barrier to distribution, but at ensuring that the purchased files are handled conscientiously. At the same time, soft DRM offers uncomplicated usability, as there are no special restrictions. A separate authorization, as with Adobe DRM, is not necessary.
This is achieved by a digital watermark or file signature. This is usually a hidden string of characters, invisible in normal use, with the help of which an eBook can be traced back to the buyer in the event that it is passed on.
This is to ensure that the eBooks are not randomly distributed. If such a protected file arrives in file-sharing networks, one can if necessary prosecute the buyer for unauthorized passing on. This is a psychological measure to prevent or at least restrict copying. Due to the lack of a uniform standard, soft DRM cannot be easily removed. This means that, despite being easier to handle, soft DRM is basically safer for the rights holders. Some end customers, however, hold traceability against the system due to data protection concerns.
The most prominent example of soft DRM is certainly Pottermore (Harry Potter). There, a more accessible, soft DRM solution is deliberately chosen – with success. In the first month after launch alone, the platform generated sales of 3.72 million Dollars.
Remove DRM – easy and free of charge
Let’s get to the most important point: DRM removal from ebooks is probably easiest with the DeDRM plugin for Calibre. The plugin only works with the free eBook software and can also be downloaded for free. This is important to mention because Google, when searching for DRM removal software, spits out all kinds of dodgy websites that charge money or even offer malware (malware, viruses, trojans) for download. One should therefore keep one’s eyes open when searching and under no circumstances pay anything for corresponding software solutions and best send the program through the virus scanner (e.g. Virustotal).
The DeDRM Calibre plugin is programmed by a programmer with the pseudonym Apprentice Alf, who does not want to be seen as a henchman for eBook-Warez. So says a statement in the blog: “Please use this application only to get full access to your own eBooks for archiving, conversion and (better) convenience. DRM-free eBooks should not be uploaded to public servers, torrents or other platforms for mass distribution. People who do this will not get any help here. Authors, dealers and publishers must earn their living, because only then they can continue to produce books for us. Don’t be a parasite!”. One can only agree with this at this point.
However, it is also important to make it clear how pointless hard copy protection is in everyday practice. The Calibre plugin is just a few clicks away, just like other DRM removal tools. If you want to remove DRM from your eBook, even beginners will have no problem. At the same time, the eBook Warez scene distributes digital goods without DRM, so that in the end only the honest customer is left behind. Here remains to hope that in the coming years a rethinking begins and soft DRM solutions more strongly come to the carrying.
Rights managers should not expect too much from the newly announced Adobe copy protection. On the one hand, it will take an extremely long time for all devices in circulation to support the new format, which means that content providers will be wary of making a switch – this would inevitably result in a loss of revenue. On the other hand, every system has been cracked, which means it is only a matter of time before this DRM protection is removed. Until then, customers can use the services of those providers who use their own system. In any case, the solution to the piracy problem does not lie in even tougher restrictions, as the change in the music industry has impressively shown.