How to make DRM Free (Digital Rights Management)

Summary: What is DRM Free? How to remove DRM? What is Digital Rights Management?   Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a protection scheme that restricts the devices on which you can play content that you’ve purchased.

Every week I get emails from people asking how they can convert their DRM protected Audible files to MP3 files, and emails from people asking how they can play their DRM protected iTunes music or DRM protected Windows Media files on non-DRM MP3 players.   In this short article, I’ll describes what is Digital Rights Management…

Digital Rights Management, or DRM, refers to any technology created to prevent unwanted users from accessing certain digital content. Such technology is usually used to protect copyright or artistic integrity, most commonly in digital media, such as music, e-books, video games, and documents. This process of limiting when, where, and how consumers can access digital media is achieved by a series of programming encryptions and/or marketing techniques, DRM is a way for a company or copyright-holder to control the use of their product, and has been used by big companies and small labels alike since the beginning of marketable technology.

Some of the most common examples of DRM in today’s world are pay-per-view movies, services like Napster and iTunes that allow you to buy music online, and copy protection on CDs and DVDs. But do you ever wonder why you can’t download a song on iTunes until you’ve paid for it?

The answer is DRM encryptions. These are codes written into the actual files that prevent information from being read. In certain files, this coding ensures that a file cannot be opened unless it is being used with the appropriate program, others designate how many times the file has been played. Copy protection is an equally common from of encryption.  Regardless of the trigger, all of these encryptions need a ‘key’ in order to allow the file to be read. For example, a certain extension on a music file such as Apple’s .mp4, will not play unless it’s being used with iTunes or an iPod.

DRM is also apparent in websites that require membership before the contents are available for usage or download. These include Napster, iTunes, RealPlayer, MovieFone, and Wal-Mart’s music downloads. While there is no particular encryption on the files, DRM still allows companies to control the consumer’s use through marketing.

Another form of DRM is the ability to make a certain medium intentionally incompatible with certain machines. A certain music file, for example, may play on your computer but not your cell phone. This is because the music file has not been made adaptable for play in both devices. Likewise, a CD will not play in a DVD player that isn’t equipped to play music.

Today, to quote David Bowie’s incredibly accurate prediction, music has “become like running water or electricity….”, and technology users around the world are beginning to question DRM. Not only is it imperfect and can often be hacked, some users consider it inhibiting and unnecessary. Will we continue to try to control media use, or give up all together, allowing free media whenever, wherever, and for whoever?

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