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Books About DRM



"Darknet" by J.D. Lasica.

A recent (2005) study of DRM from a primarily social perspective. Lasica's endless examples of creative re-purposing of Hollywood content by everyone from priests to DJs - and how the evil people from Hollywood are out to get them - gets tiresome at times. Personally, I know lots of people who steal music or video and practically nobody who ceatively re-purposes it. But Lasica does make some good points, and the book is worth reading for the personal face he puts on on many of the key people and events in this evolving domain.

"The Future of Music" by Kusek & Leonhard

An examination of the state of the music industry and how it will get out of the digital mess it's in (according to the authors), through the use of compulsory licensing- the no-DRM solution. While this is a debatable proposition, the authors give the deepest analysis yet of how this might actually work.

"Digital Rights Management: Business and Technology" by Rosenblatt et al.

The only book about DRM which covers all the bases and is a reasonably easy read. It has some shortcomings - the authors are obviously expert on book publishing but not on security technology, for example. And a lot has changes since 2001. But it's still worth the read for anyone serious about DRM.

"Digital Rights Management Technological, Economic, Legal, and Political Aspects" edited by Becker et al.

This 2003 book is the most recent comprehensive book on the subject. Serious students of DRM should have it; however, it's expensive and, because it is a collection of papers by various (and often academic) authors, it's not an easy end-to-end read.


"Superdistribution: Objects as Property on the Electronic Frontier" by Brad Cox

This book described a world of metered content and applications back in 1996, long before mass-market DRM was on most people's radar. The vision presented is excellent. It is weaker when he strays into implementation - although in fairness, years later there's still lots of room for improvement in that part.

Books Related to DRM

These books are of relevance to DRM from a technical and/or legal perspective:

  • Hacking the Xbox" by Anderew "Bunnie" Huang

    I don't normally endorse hacking or aid the spread of hacking information, but I'll make an exception in this case. First off, the cat is out of the bag and everyone that wants to hack an Xbox can do it. Second, and more importantly, it makes clear the absolutely brilliant level of talent (we're talking MIT PhDs in engineering crafting custom logic analyzers here) which MIGHT attack any given content protection system.

  • "Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C", by Bruce Schneier

    Considered by many to be the best work on cryptography for those looking for technical depth and breadth without getting lost in advanced math.

  • "Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems" by Ross Anderson

    Arguably the best book on security technology in the broad sense, that is, the design of overall systems for security in the real world.
  • "The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World" by Lawrence Lessig

    This is a "big idea" book with a scary but well-argued premise: that the current trends in policy and law in the USA - and by implication, the world - threaten to turn the Internet into an instrument of control, used to the advantage of powerful corporations. It's not just a rant - he has some proposals to fix things as well.
    • "Internet Law in Canada" by Michael A Geist

      This is a definitive work which is regularly revised and which links to a Web site to provide current information in this fast-evolving field. Although many of the details are Canada-specific, the presentation and issues will be of interest to follows of cyberlaw in other countries as well.

    Papers Relating to DRM

    If you exclude vendor's product plugs, most online papers are academic works focusing either on issues of copyright or on the difficulty of secure DRM.

    • "On the (Im)possibility of Obfuscating Programs" Barak et al
      This paper argues that there is no effective method of "obscuring" software. Whether this is right or wrong depends on how high you set the bar on "effective". It does however provide a clear case for not "betting the farm" on any particular obscuring methods, since very intelligent attackers do exist, and given a large enough, or stationary enough, target, they will hit it.
    • The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution (by Peter Biddle et al. (MS Word Format)
      This seminal paper goes right past the issue of "copy protection" and looks at a world - the "Darknet" - where copy protection is always cracked by somebody, somewhere, and free-but-illegal content is always, at least in principle, an option. The issue then becomes, does everybody cheat, and if not, why not ? This involves examining the flows of pirated content and cracks from producers to consumers, and the motivations of all of the participants.

      It is worth a read, partly because nobody expected a paper like this from Microsoft, and partly because the Darknet is a fact of life.

    • "Taking the Copy out of Copyright" by Feigenbaum & Miller.

      This paper argues convincingly that, since modern digital technology makes copying nearly impossible to prevent, copyright needs to evolve away from controlling copying per se. Their proposal is that public distribution, not copying, be controlled. From a common sense point of view this is quite appealing. Unfortunately, this is extremely difficult to implement with any forseeable technology. (Thus your humble scribe's bias in favour of mediating use of content - there seems to be some hope of implementing that.)