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What DRM Means for Backup

DRM stands for digital rights management. It is a form of copy protection and is used by those such as hardware manufacturers and software publishers in order to help fight copyright infringement.

The use of DRM is a controversial one – some people see it as their right to be able to copy content if they’ve purchased it. In fact, some online stores have been set up on the basis that they sell content that doesn’t have DRM. One such store is, a games marketplace that boasts the fact it hasn’t got any copy protection as the main selling point.

However, it’s unlikely that DRM is going to go away any time soon. Content creators can be very protective of their work, even after consumers have paid their money for it. The chances are that you own DRM protected material and you’re not even aware of it.

For example, do you own anything on the games platform Steam? If so, you own a game that is protected by DRM. This is because you need to run the game through Steam’s platform and be verified online before you can activate the game. Many don’t consider this an immediate issue, but what does this mean for backup?

DRM can come in varying strengths. For example, some will stop you from copying the data on a disc entirely. It’s perfectly legal to rip a CD to your computer because there’s no rights management in place to stop you. If you trying doing the same on a DVD or Blu-ray then you’ll likely run into a brick wall. This is because the Technical Protection Methods (TPM) present on these discs stop you from making personal copies – and removing this TPM would be illegal.

This means that if you buy a DVD then legally that’s the only copy you have of it. You can’t make a backup of the content on the disc because to break the protection would be against the law. If you lose the disc, it gets stolen or destroyed in a disaster then the only way you can regain that data is to buy the DVD again. Some people see this inability to backup for personal use an injustice and they use software to break the protection on the discs.

A similar issue arises when we use the example of Steam. If, for whatever reason, the Steam platform was to shut down, then everyone would be locked out of their games. This is because the servers needed for authentication would be shut down, thus the games would refuse to activate. The company are under no obligation to provide support or unlock the DRM present.

However, things may change. For example, ripping music to your computer used to be illegal until the Recording Industry Association of America allowed the law to pass. Other organisations are less willing to budge and are stricter, but as a digital existence and reliance on backup increases then this may change in the future. Until then, if DRM is present on your content then you can’t take a proper backup of that data.


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