With the advent of digital media, copyright holders have sought out additional forms of protection to help prevent their works from being illegally copied and shared.
Whereas traditional copyright laws at one time were deemed sufficient, the digital era brought with it new hurdles for protecting contents within PDF documents.
This is where DRM (Digital Rights Management) enters the picture.
In this guide, we’ll look at what DRM is, how it works, when to use it, and more.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this ultimate guide to DRM protection:
- What Is DRM (Digital Rights Management)?
- How Does DRM Work?
- DRM Protection in PDF Documents Overview
- When To Use DRM In Your Digital Content and Documents
- How To Add DRM Protection To A PDF Document
- How to Remove DRM From PDF and EPub Documents
What Is DRM (Digital Rights Management)?
Ever wondered what it means when a file is DRM protected?
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a form of protection for digital media or any file that has some kind of restriction against unauthorized use in place.
It works by encrypting and limiting the distribution and use of products like music, movies, PDF documents, eBooks, and more.
Most DRM systems work by creating a unique key or code that can be used to unlock it in order to gain access.
This prevents the content from being copied without permission. The goal of DRM is to maintain value in digital goods and protect intellectual property rights. And as it becomes increasingly easier to locate pirated content online, it’s more important than ever to have protection like DRM.
How Does DRM Work?
DRM protects copyrighted material by ensuring that purchases of digital content are not pirated or compromised. It does this by monitoring the distribution of the protected material and giving permission for its use.
In order to use a DRM, the content typically needs to be ingested using a Content Management System (CMS).
For example, let’s say you bought a DRM-protect song. As part of the media’s packaging process, the song receives an encryption key that is unique to it. The key is also included with a digital license; this simply covers the rules for the content’s use.
Whenever you wish to listen to the song, the DRM’s client reviews the digital license to ensure that it’s OK to listen to it.
If everything checks out and the license reports back that the song can be played on your system, the key is decrypted, and the song plays without issue.
All of this is accomplished in a split second.
Now, let’s take a look at how DRM works with PDF documents.
DRM Protection in PDF Documents Overview
PDF documents are a popular option for sharing documents, but they can contain DRM—the software that restricts the way you access your document.
In this section, we’ll explore how DRM works and what you can do to remove it from your PDF files.
How DRM works in PDFs
PDFs work by encrypting the content of the file with a password. This password is known as a “digital entitlement.” The digital entitlement is set by whoever created the PDF and then shared with others.
The digital entitlement then sets some restrictions on who has access to the file. For example, only those people authorized by the creator of the PDF may have access to view or print it.
For someone without an authorized digital entitlement, trying to open a PDF creates an error message stating that there is no authorization for them to view or print it.
If you are the creator of the PDF, you have two options in granting access:
- You can either give them your digital entitlement.
- Or you can remove their restriction from being able to view or print the document.
As you can see, DRM is an important component in the protection of various digital works. Without a proper DRM in place, it would be far too easy for content to be copied and shared illegally. And although there are ways to remove DRM protection (which we’ll cover shortly), it’s a serviceable roadblock for most users.
Those who don’t have the technical know-how or patience will find DRM protection to be enough to stop them from attempting anything further. But the fact remains that there are ways to get around DRM protection.
For now, though, DRM serves its purpose in thwarting attempts to distribute protected content without authorization. And for many content creators, that’s enough.
Now, let’s take a look at some examples of DRMs you come across daily.
Examples of DRM across different mediums
There are various uses for DRM in digital media.
Moreover, several brands use DRM to protect their content in several ways. That said, not all DRM acts the same, as you’ll see in the examples below.
Apple Music: Apple DRM prevents you from listening to music on any device without the Apple Music app.
Spotify: Spotify uses a more open type of DRM where users can listen to their music on any device, but they can’t download it onto their computer. Instead, only playlists are allowed on PCs.
Google Play: Google Play leaves it up to the content creator whether they wish to use DRM. Those who forego DRM allow you to download and listen to music on any device.
DRM in Movies: DRM can be used to stop people from copying DVDs and Blu-rays. There is another type of DRM used in movies, called “SafeDisc.” This is meant to combat piracy. However, it’s an older type of DRM. The newer type, BD+, is much more difficult for pirates to break into.
DRM in EBooks: DRM is often used in eBooks to prevent unauthorized copying and sharing. With Kindle eBooks, for example, you can view them on devices other than Kindles as long as you have the free Kindle app downloaded and installed to them.