Implementing DRM

Jason Tucker
Digital Rights Management has become a new and somewhat wondrous invention for those who have taken the time to truly understand the capability that it can afford you. Trial and error is not necessary as many have done the work for you.

In the next few months, it is my hope that you will learn from some of the lessons that we at PlayaDRM and our clients have defined as useful tools and easily implemented uses of DRM. The result is more revenue to you and additional performance from your online properties.

DRM is simply a system that encrypts digital media content and limits access to only those people who have acquired a proper license to play the content.

The models that can be created out of this simple process are almost limitless. Please understand that it is not a time-consuming process to encrypt media. You can encrypt files in the same amount of time as it would take for you to copy one file to another on your desktop.

Microsoft has the best DRM system. Although Real Media and DIVX provide their own versions, they are not as deployed or as functional as the one embedded in Windows Media Player, not to mention the cost factor associated with non-Microsoft solutions.

On the competitive web, webmasters have to do whatever it takes to provide a clear and easy user experience coupled with ways to get every penny you can out of the end user.

At the same time, you need to make sure that you are protecting your assets from the distribution mechanism that no previous civilization has ever known.

One person can easily devalue your entire property just by sharing it with the masses, but that same person can help you make money if you have the right tools in place. Confused? Don't worry, we are in this together and we are here to help.

Using DRM In Your Members Area
If you have any exclusive or licensed video content, you should be thinking about ways to keep it under your control. Members Area content, when offered on a downloadable basis, has benefits including the ability to allow members to "take the content with them." It offers instant gratification to the end user, and once again, you ultimately retain control.

Some say that members should have total access to the members areas once they have paid for the membership.

I agree with this thought with one exception: you should only be able to view content when you are a member. If you are no longer a member, you should not have the right to access or view the content. A real-life example is as simple as looking at the experience of going to a movie theater: You watch a movie and leave, and you don't leave with a copy of the movie for later viewing.

The result of only giving access to those who have active memberships allows you to potentially recapture expired members by offering a discounted rate or your best creative sales pitch and is also a cheap way of also promoting other products or sites through several mechanisms including traditional console pops.

If the content was traded by a member, that new viewer will be offered a chance to join before they can access the content, which can help you pick up new members. People share videos, don't be mistaken, and they are your videos so you should be paid for it. Again, this model simply allows you the ability to turn theft or cancelled memberships into a possible marketing opportunity and/or rebills.

An application of this model in technical terms would go as follows:

STEP 1: Upload, encrypt and replace the raw WMV or WMA files with the now secured DRM files. Note that you can change the names or any other variables as often as you like, so don't worry about being locked in to file naming conventions, they don't matter.

STEP 2: Login and group the content under one license as Members Content. Then set the rules to prompt the end user for their username and password the first time they play a file in any given calendar month and set the rule to issue them a license for the period of time that their membership is for, trial or monthly.

You can also create rules by time, amount of plays, dates or anything else you come up with.

If they have a five-day trial membership, the system will issue them a five-day unlimited license. The end user can now watch any of your members area videos for five days without being prompted again. At the end of the five days, they will once again be prompted. If their membership is up-to-date, they can play the video. If not, you can redirect them to a tour/join page, or that creative pitch you came up with.

If content leaves your members area, those users will be directed to a sales pitch.

STEP 3: Congratulate yourself because if you get three joins a month out of this, you not only just captured back traffic from your members area but you paid for the service and made a profit.

The same content you grouped as members could also be offered on a pay-per-view basis by simply adjusting the rules. You could also give away free plays to certain clips to promote your site, all the while knowing that at any time, you can change it out, repurpose it or simple shut it down.

Your content and your sites are yours; put total control in your hands.

For more information about DRM, visit the Microsoft website.

Jason Tucker is a partner and president of Falcon Foto and Playa Solutions.