Mistrust-Based Digital Rights Management

Intellectual Property and Copyright and Trademark

Article Snapshot


Randal Picker


U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 291, 2006


This paper looks at how content producers protect their content from piracy.

Policy Relevance

Digital Rights Management is not very effective because consumers have little reason to use it. Rewarding consumers who report piracy would improve protection.

Main Points

  • As copying became very easy and cheap, content producers have tried to use technology to make illegal copying harder. This is called “digital rights management”, or DRM.


  • It is hard to add DRM to existing libraries of content, such as CDs, because consumers use players and content they already own.


  • A shift in format towards online delivery of content is an opportunity to introduce DRM. New distributors include Apple’s iTunes and Google Video. Both build in DRM based on the identity of the user.


  • Content users still have little reason to buy content with DRM.


  • Adding bounty tags that would reward consumers for reporting illegal copying would make content buyers more likely to observe copyright.

Get The Article

Find the full article online

Search for Full Article