Position Paper on 'Why DRM cannot protect copyrights'

Frank Reichwein

Digitale Hanse GmbH



DRM-Systems are closed systems. They suffer from the fundamental problem of leakage. Once an intellectual work leaks out, the protection is broken. Internet content is distributed and offered without the knowledge of the owner. To reestablish the connection between intellectual work and owner, the Internet must be monitored for the use of all intellectual property. The intellectual work is recognized and the owner is notified. The Digitale Hanse GmbH, Hamburg, runs a Universal Monitoring for image and audio data. This service of high social-economic value is deployed as a trans-European effort within the European TEN Telecom Project.

The Broken Link

In a DRM setup the user initially is forced to use special facilities to 'consume' the digital content either by viewing or listening. There is no way out for the content. But it is easy to grab e.g. the image by screenshot, to catch the audio stream with somthing like a virtual sound driver dumping waveform to disk or by sampling the audio stream. Then the content can be distributed over the internet. Not to say the many ways content can be brought to internet by other means, e.g. CD grabbing.

Challanges beyond DRM

Actually, the applicable law constituted in WIPO Copyright Treaty of Dec. 20, 1996 and the Greenbook of the Commission of the European Community KOM 95 (382) governs the responsiblity for infringing digital content in networks. Therefore, the removal of infringing content can only be forced, if there is a positive knowledge of the infringing character. This positive knowledge actually can only be gained by manual research. This research lacks of completeness, actuality and is very expensive.

With the Universal Monitoring, this research runs fully automated for broad realms of Internet, notifies at least weekly and is very cost effective since one research informs all owners. Also monitoring is an efficient way, to track down the infringing content in file-sharing systems like the popular 'Gnutella'. Positive knowledge is guaranteed as well a the negative knowledge of non-infringing content.

Running Universal Monitoring

Internet Monitoring is a complex technique, because internet today is not only a matter of static HTML-Code but daily refreshed, script-driven, dynamical pages. The Universal Monitoring behaves like a human internet user using a modern browser. It is most important, that no web technique derails the monitoring system, so that all content is proofed of someones legal ownership. All media datatypes and formats are recognized. The recognition and notification is working for identical and even modified content. Bandwidth is reduced to a minimum. All processed internet realms are under effective control of the IPR-Monitoring. Furthermore the notification is approved for legal suits.


DRM alone is not the whole answer to IPR in the internet age. Monitoring is needed to reestablish the broken link between work and owner. The working DRM always needs a monitoring companion.