DRM is Dead, Long Live DRM

Todd Glider
EuroRevenue made some headlines recently when we announced that our most popular paysites were being re-launched without digital rights management. We'd been employing DRM rather successfully for four years, which was, give or take a month, roughly how long affiliates and review sites had been asking us to remove it.

For us, the implementation of DRM was a proactive business decision, born of necessity. We saw the writing on the wall years earlier and we knew that content theft would grow, unfettered. This had far-reaching implications for us. Our business strategies were long built on cultivating lucrative online licensing deals with high-profile producers in the DVD market, and they needed assurances.

Not to be overly self-aggrandizing, but people do like our content. The producers we work with are name brands with cachet. Strokers actively seek out these brands, nearly as often as they are introduced to them by our affiliates.

So if we were going to offer our members DVD-quality, full-movie downloads, our producers needed to know that content theft wouldn't lead directly to the demise of their offline DVD licensing profits.

Even then, with the proliferation of torrent sites and peer-to-peer networks, one could argue that the urge to protect content was a romantic, outdated notion. If the music industry lay in ruin because of an upstart with the nonsensical name Napster, how were we, as an industry, going to combat an increasingly tech-savvy consumer's unquenchable thirst for free entertainment?

The music industry had organization, perceived legitimacy, deep pockets, lobbyists and legal teams. Many of us are lucky to just know a lawyer.

So we opted for Windows DRM and moved in that direction in 2004. It didn't stop there. Our battle against copyright infringement was buttressed by 'grass-roots' monitoring. We combed through torrent sites and asked that our content be removed. We dispatched missives to hacker forum moderators asking that they delete threads dedicated to stealing our content. They were all, and continue to be, very accommodating.

To call this four-year odyssey a failure is a gross exaggeration. Our decision to remove DRM does not in any way signify an admission of futility, a waving of the white flag.

It was a rare day when a customer would make a fuss about the added step of entering an active login. It was an even rarer day when we encountered a customer with enough moxie to suggest that a finite subscription should afford him lifetime movie access.

No matter the hurdles, we must never forget that protecting against copyright theft is everyone's right. That cannot be argued. Else we cut off the entire system of free enterprise at its knees:

I build it, you buy it. A-Okay!
I build it, you steal it. A-Okay!

So why did we do it? Why did we move away from DRM?

Simple: Windows stopped supporting it and we found no suitable alternative that was both secure and hassle-free. Truth be told, if Windows had not dropped the ball our DRM protections would still be in place.

The removal process kicked off last summer, beginning with, and more recently,, and New sites, like, and, have all hit the market unprotected. We even say so in the bullet points on our join form.

In that span of time, we've fielded few comments from consumers. The cheering section has been made up mostly of our colleagues:

I'm going to start pushing more traffic tonight!
I will update all your reviews by Friday!

These are the ICQs we receive, and of course we are thankful for them. This should not be viewed as an indictment of our affiliate partners. On the contrary, it would be far worse if we went through the trouble of re-encoding every movie in our library only to find that nobody cared one way or the other.

Our sales manager reads every ecstatic message with enthusiasm. We all do. We continue to comb the hacker boards, of course. We continue to hit up the torrent sites, of course. The irony is that where watermarking, as a convention, predated DRM in adult, it is once again our principle protection.

And the content will get out there, regardless, whether we protect it through DRM or not. The challenge is simply to embrace the theft, then articulate and implement clear strategies to monetize the content that is out there.

In the end, here is our post-mortem on digital rights management: DRM is not dead.

DRM is not the pariah that some would make it out to be. It is neither useless nor outdated. It is a functioning, however imperfect, solution to an ongoing problem. DRM is like exercising for better health and a longer life. A treadmill is not going to hold off death and DRM cannot prevent content theft. They will both, however, ensure you — and your content — a longer, healthier life.