Friday, December 5, 2008

Alternative to music DRM.

Lots of people don’t like DRM mainly because it’s a bad solution. A few problems with it are: that it is dependent on a central server that eventually shuts down, you lose the music if you change your computer, and you can’t make back up copies.

Most people say the best alternative is no DRM and sell music for cheap which is a lot better from the customers perspective but the music companies really don’t like it because there is no anti piracy methods and they think they will make less money.

An alternative implementation I have thought up is to create a new container for the music file. The container would hold the music and metadata and very detailed information about the user who bought the music online and it would be digitally signed with the private key of the publisher. The players for this format would refuse to play the music if it was not properly signed.

If the information is changed then it would not validate.

As far as the end user is concerned the file would play where ever they copy it too. And would but just like a non DRM file. Now you may ask “how does this stop piracy? If the music can be copied anywhere then it is no better then No DRM!”

It works differently then DRM because instead trying to stop people from making any copies it makes it easy to know exactly who is making illegal copies. If a music file is found being distributed online you know exactly who bought it and can easily go to court. After a while people would realize how easily they can be caught and stop putting music online or sharing it with friends. Also if a computer has a bunch of music on it, it would be easy to tell if they bought it or if it’s an illegal copy.

This solution requires no central server just the authorized player that has a list of authorized publishers. It is no where near perfect and is easier to circumvent then current DRM, but it has one major advantage over DRM: it does not harm legitimate users. People who follow the law would have no desire to circumvent it, only people who want to pirate it. Only scenario where legitimate users would want to circumvent it would be to play music on some device that does not have an authorized player for it.


This kind of DRM can be easily applied to movies and computer games. It could actually be more effective on computer games then on music.

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