Major entertainment companies are using "digital rights management," or DRM (aka content or copy protection), to lock up your digital media. These DRM technologies do nothing to stop copyright pirates, but instead end up interfering with fans' lawful use of music, movies, and other copyrighted works. DRM can prevent you from making back ups of your DVDs and music downloaded from online stores, recording your favorite TV programs, using the portable media player of your choice, remixing clips of movies into your own home movies, and much more.
To the extent DRM interferes with perfectly legal uses of digital media, it's plenty bad enough. But thanks to the lobbying of the major media companies, DRM is now backed up by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If you circumvent DRM locks or create the tools to do so, even to enable noninfringing fair uses, you might be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. The DMCA has been a disaster for innovation, free speech, fair use, and competition.
And Congress is now considering new laws that go beyond the DMCA, mandating DRM in a wide array of digital media devices and personal computers, giving entertainment industry lawyers and federal bureaucrats veto power over new gadgets.
Hollywood and the music industry have always attacked new technologies that help you get more from your media—these industries brought lawsuits against the VCR, DAT recorder, the MP3 player, and the PVR. Today, these media giants want to use DRM to take away your legitimate fair use and home recording rights, hoping to sell those rights back to you later. Worse still, recent DRM has invaded users' privacy and created severe security vulnerabilities in computers.
Fans shouldn't be treated like criminals, and neither should the innovators who build the gadgets on which they rely. EFF has fought against many DMCA suits, including defending the makers of DVD backup software, and sued Sony-BMG for their "rootkit" CD copy protection scheme. Learn more about our efforts through the links below, and consider donating to support efforts.
Selected EFF articles on DRM
- Microsoft Research DRM Talk, by Cory Doctorow June 18, 2004
- How Hollywood Has Been Trying to Disrupt Innovation, by Fred von Lohmann (off-site)
- EFF and Co-Signers' Paper on Development Issues and DRM, submitted to the International Telecommunications Union [or PDF, 116k] March, 2005
- Digital Rights Management: The Skeptic's View, by Fred von Lohmann
- Critique of EU "Networked Audiovisual Systems and Home Platforms" (NAVSHP) DRM Requirements Report October, 2005
- Consumer Success: It Comes Down To Innovation, by Fred von Lohmann (off-side) April 18, 2003
- Death by DMCA, by Fred von Lohmann and Wendy Seltzer, IEEE Spectrum Magazine (off-site) June, 2006
Selected Cases, Laws, and Bills
- Sony-BMG "rootkit" case - EFF held Sony BMG accountable for infecting its customers' computers with DRM software that created grave security vulnerabilities and let the company spy on listening behavior.
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and related cases - By making it illegal to circumvent DRM or create the tools to do so, DMCA has developed into a serious threat that jeopardizes fair use, impedes competition and innovation, chills free expression and scientific research, and interferes with computer intrusion laws. EFF has defended against many DMCA suits.
- Broadcast Flag - The proposed "broadcast flag" mandate would have required by law that all HDTVs obey Hollywood's commands. EFF has fought in court, the FCC, and Congress to stop the flag.
- Digital Radio Restrictions - The recording industry is pushing new legislation to put the brakes on home recording, something American radio fans have been doing for more than 25 years and is clearly permitted under existing copyright laws. EFF has lobbied the FCC and Congress to block these restrictions.
- Analog Hole - Hollywood wants to enlist federal bureaucrats to regulate technology companies and hobble anything that touches analog video outputs, including video cards, VCRs, PVRs, and much more. EFF has fought against these proposals.
- WIPO Broadcasting Treaty - The Digital Millennium Copyright Act grew out of a treaty negotiated through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and new proposed treaties would require DRM mandates around the world. EFF is helping a coalition of NGOs fight back.