IEBS - Digital Right Management Law

In the last decade, India has observed a huge exponential growth in the internet and digital technologies which has unleashed vast opportunities for creation, production and distribution. With the advent of digital technology, now artists can more easily reach and understand audiences across the globe. The internet furthers innovation around professional content creation and distribution, and supports the growth of business models around professional creative works.

Conversely, with the evolution of digital environment, the access, use, duplication or modification of the original work has become really simple. To add on, nowadays all the works can easily be digitalized, which then can be merged, transformed, manipulated or mixed to create an endless variety of new works. Thus making the rights of reproduction and distribution immaterial in this digital age. Digital environment has created a platform for piracy and uncontrolled proliferation of copyrighted works, posing serious threats to the interest of the creator.

To counter these threats, digital right management techniques have been developed to make digital works difficult to copy, distribute and access without necessary permission.

Digital Right Management

The Digital Rights Management (DRM) envisages protection of digital data by means of technical protection measures. DRM system broadly defined as any technology and tools customized for protecting the usage of digital files by managing file access (number of views, length of views, and ways of viewing), sharing, copying, altering, saving, and printing. DRM technology can be used to protect both online and offline media wherein these technologies may include within the program software or in the actual hardware of the device.

Some of the common DRM techniques are like access and copy control software, encryption schemes, digital watermarks digital signature and digital certificate. The DRM is widely used by companies such as Apple Inc., BBC, and Microsoft and so on. For example, iTunes of Apple which is compatible only on the Apple software. This technological non-compatibility can to a certain extent restrict unauthorized copying and distribution of iTunes of Apple. However, instead of these techniques large number of data is copied and distributed on the digital environment posing adverse effects on the creator’s right.

Why DRM provisions is a bad step for India

While the contours of copyright law have always been drawn by the technological developments across the globe, the emergence of digital technologies has brought a whole new set of challenges to deal with. The World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (WCT) and World Intellectual Property Organization Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) are trying to adapt to today’s hyper-connected world with the prior policies developed for analogue content. Further to add on copyright systems across the world, even among countries with established copyright frameworks, are markedly different.

With the amendment of 2012 the copyright law of India incorporates the provision of DRM in the legal regime. Neither India is a signatory to WCT and WPPT nor does the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) itself make any mention of an obligation on India to protect DRM measures. Even then India has incorporated the provisions of these international documents to be in line with the International standards of copyright law, which has ignited the debate that what compelled the Indian legal regime to incorporate these provisions in the Indian legal system.

Experts says although Indian provisions of DRM are not as harsh as of the other adaptations of this International Standard, these new provisions are said to have detrimental effect to Indian copyright. Firstly, this new legislature will lead to a para-copyright regime. Secondly, the new DRM provisions have been approved without conducting a proper cost-benefit economic analysis of this legislature in India. Finally, the nature of piracy in India currently does not have need of such legislation. Dr. Deepti Tayal, director of Ingenious e-Brain Solutions (an IP consultancy firm) says, “India would ultimately lag behind in the development if strictly adhere with the provision of DRM as per WCT and/or WPPT. The need of the hour is a better digital business management strategy and a better enforcement of the rights which are already guaranteed under the copyright law, rather than embracing new DRM provisions under the copyright law”.

So if DRM is so bad, why have it in the first place?

Besides the supposed protecting the rights of artists and performers and such, a quick look into the past shows that the entertainment industry people have almost always viewed innovative practices as trouble to their business due to their fear of being out-competed by new technology. This can be seen right from the popular technologies like radio, cable television, piano roll, VCR and DAT recorder which has become a thing of past.


Digital technology has revolutionized our education system and thereby, it becomes furthermore imperative to make the availability of ideas for the general public, without blocking the flow of creativity. However, creators and author’s efforts also must be recognized and incentivized. Hence, the interest of both creator and user must be kept in mind while enacting DRM techniques by undergoing an exhaustive cost benefit analysis.