Technical Reports

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The rise in the popularity of internet-based digital video has created a major revolution in the way consumers acquire content. Users no longer need to watch a television show live or obtain a physical disc in order to view a movie. However, this transition comes with a price: Digital Rights Management (DRM). Every digital video file requires a user to be locked into a particular combination of software, hardware, and business plan in order to be authorized for viewing purchased content. DRM was just as prevalent during the introduction of digital audio, but DRM was abolished from the format within four years. The goal of this paper is to attempt to divine the future of DRM and digital video by comparing the current marketplace to the case study of digital audio. In order to estimate the lifespan of video DRM, this paper first examined the history of audio DRM and the factors that led to its demise. Two key factors were discovered: technological innovations that helped push audio piracy into the mainstream and the market forces that forced the copyright holders to relax their DRM requirements. Those factors were used to analyze the current state of video DRM. While disruptive technologies are still being developed to compete against DRM, a combination of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's stifling of innovation and the rise of online streaming content has prevented the creation of a universal technological solution that would push for DRM-free video. As for the market forces, users treat video content differently than audio. Video content is more disposable, with users preferring to rent content for a single viewing while digital audio lends itself to an ownership culture. This difference in how users treat their content does not create the level of piracy necessary to make DRM-free digital video a reality. The paper concludes that despite the internet's massive ability for the free dissemination of data, digital video DRM will be a factor in the foreseeable future.