Windows Digital Rights Management

 

 

Windows Digital Rights Management - DRM

 

Article by Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)

 

Introduction To Digital Rights Management in WMP 



The latest release of Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology makes it possible to protect, deliver, and play music and video on computers, portable audio devices, Portable Media Center devices, or networked devices connected to an IP network (e.g. some mobile phones).

Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) allows for the seamless flow of content to almost any "device", offering the widest range of purchase and rental options for digital media, and ensuring the security of premium content as it flows from device to device....

...and it is the security of the content that attracts the big names in the Music and Movie industries. You see if there was NO secure way to deliver music and video over the Internet, then we could not have online stores where you can purchase content to play and transfer to portable media devices.

Without Digital Rights Management (DRM) to combat the piracy of video and audio online, enjoying such content "on the go" would NOT be the rich experience it is today!

There are several commercial solutions (from companies like Microsoft
and Sony) available for companies to protect their music and video content but this article will briefly look at Microsoft's Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) in Windows Media Player 10.

How Does Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) Work?

To explain a topic it is often best to do so in an example or an illustration, so that is what I will do here:

When I purchase a song from the online MSN Music Store I download the track and place it on my laptop/computer.

When I come to play that track Windows Media Player knows it is protected by DRM and so looks for a valid license. In the case of the track I just purchased a license was also downloaded to my computer. This is the default action unless you un-tick the option: "Acquire license automatically for protected content" found at Tools > Options > Privacy Tab

Now Windows Media Player is happy that the licence is valid the track I just purchased plays on my computer.

Now a word about subscriptions, licence restrictions, license backup

Points To Remember About Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM)

All music and video files protected with DRM technology will have all the restrictions that apply to the file listed on the Licence tab (see Fig 1.1) To find this information:

1. From within the player Right Click on the music (or video) track and select Properties from the menu.

2. On the Properties window that appears select the tab marked License. All the individual restrictions are listed in this section called License Details.


Fig 1.1 - The License Tab Of A Music / Video File.



When the content owner creates a DRM protected file they have various options available to them. In the example above (see Fig 1.1) you can see that the content owner is allowing:

# Unlimited playback of the file, on my computer, until 31st December 2099

# They are not allowing me to share this file with others

# The burning of the file to CD 10 times until 31st December 2099

# The file can be synchronized to my Pocket PC/PDA/Mobile Phone/Portable Media Center etc 25 times

# The license can NOT be backed up using the License Backup facility in Windows Media Player.

NB - Prior to purchasing a track, from an online music store, you can check on the content owners restrictions for each individual file.

Subscriptions

If you have downloaded a track as part of a monthly Subscription service, like the one offered by Napster, you will notice that the DRM restrictions only allow you to play the file for as long as you continue to subscribe. Cancel your subscription to the online service and you will have files on your computer that you can no longer play...

License Backups

You may have noticed a tool within Windows Media Player that allows you to backup and restore DRM licences. In player 10 it is: Tools > Manage Licences and in player 9 it is: Tools > License Management

However whilst I do encourage the use of this tool, most commercially protected content does not allow the backup of individual DRM licences - as you can see in Fig 1.1 above.

This tool is more for the use of those who "Rip" their CD's in conjunction with the "Copy protect music" option that is available in Windows Media Player versions 9 and 10.

Disaster Strikes!

If disaster should strike your hard drive and you loose all your tracks/licenses or you transfer just the DRM protected files and then wipe your hard drive you can always contact the online store for assistance in gaining new licences and files. My personal experience of asking for new licences from the MSN Music store , after a hard drive failure, was a positive one and I was up and running again in no time at all!

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is often spoken about in "hushed tones" as though it was some sort of evil force... But the commercial reality is that without being able to protect their music & video copyrights, content owners simply would not have created the online stores that allow me to purchase the individual tracks and/or entire albums of my favourite artists.

I could buy the content at a local music store and then "Rip" the content manually but it is just not that convenient for me as signing into an online store and downloading in moments.

...also a recent trend amongst some record labels is to add technology to the CD that STOPS you copying the contents to a computer! So rightly or wrongly, downloading DRM protected files may soon be the only way to obtain content that can be transferred onto your portable media devices and PC's.

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Kind Regards

Marc Liron

Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)
www.marcliron.com
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