DRM is not a three letter bad word

DRM (digital rights management) was much the buzz for content producers because the idea was that their creations could be securely distributed on the Internet in a controlled fashion.

Microsoft’s DRM solution is the more popular DRM package being used that allows people to encode their video files so they can control who viewed the video, through the Licensing Manager.

Members to a paysite can download and view movies, and the idea was that if they shared the movie with someone else, the movie wouldn’t play for them. Likewise, if the member cancelled the membership, the paysite could make all of the videos stop playing.

The reason why a paysite could control whether a video was able to play or not is because the DRM-encoded video file “phones home” via the Windows Media Player to contact the licensing server to see if the person requesting to watch the video is allowed.

With this mechanism, the paysite can effectively control who got to watch the video.

The problem with DRM is that members who cancel started to figure out that when they cancelled their membership, their videos stop playing. These ex-members felt they somehow owned the right to continue to view the content.

The porn-seeking crowd started to get wise to DRM and voted with their wallets in signing up to websites that didn’t have DRM. Review sites like TheBestPorn.com started to track if videos were DRM-encoded. Porn seekers now were savvy enough to know to avoid DRM websites.

This caused alot of paysites to rip out the DRM encoding and go without it.

Encoding files with DRM can have alot of advantages, but I feel the use of DRM has not been properly done.

Shutting off a member right after they quit is not the answer. The paysite could allow the license for the video to last for like 9-12 months. Even letting the video be shared and played by other people.

The cancelled member is able to enjoy the video beyond their membership and all would have been fine with the member. By the time that the expiration event occurred, they may have forgotten the video files, replaced by newer video files.

DRM gives you great marketing tracking statistics since each time the video is played, a hit is registered with the IP and the username (if it was a member) in your DRM server log files.

This allows you to track what videos people are continuing to watch. You can track to see what content is popular from your site. If they are sharing the video, then you can tell how many people are viewing your video as non-members.

With DRM, you can then signal to the Media Player to pop open a web browser that shows an advertising for your website. As a previous member who is enjoying the content, they are reminded they can get more of the content by joining again. A discount could be offered since you would not have to pay a commission for that signup.

If the video was being shared, the person viewing the content would then see the web page of where to get more of the same content.

I see DRM as a great marketing tool to track and identify who is watching your content as well as being able to market directly to them.

The benefits of DRM could be lost now due to consumer revolt against DRM, so having DRM files on your website, implemented as described above, may get you fewer signups due to consumers knowing you are using DRM.

DRM has also come under fire from programs like FairUse4wm that can crack DRM.

An alternate method to gain the marketing tracking of being able to pop open a web browser and knowing how many people are viewing your video files, can be done with .MOV files.

The Quicktime .MOV format as the ability to pop open a web browser at the end of the video. This gives you the ability to track weblog hits for when that happens, as well as being able to target the viewer with your website.

The disadvantage is that the web page will pop each time the video is played, so that could be annoying, and maybe better served for sample/preview content.

I will explore the .MOV format alternative in a later blog post.

Fight the sharing!