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Study: Removing DRM May Reduce Piracy

11 Oct, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

A joint study by Rice University and Duke University challenges the idea that music digital rights management, or DRM, reduces piracy, instead suggesting that DRM has a negative impact on legal users who have no intention of doing anything illegal.

“In many cases, DRM restrictions prevent legal users from doing something as normal as making backup copies of their music,” said Dinah Vernik, assistant professor of marketing at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business. “Because of these inconveniences, some consumers choose to pirate.”

The study “used analytical modeling to examine how piracy is influenced by the presence or absence of DRM restrictions” and concluded that “only the legal users pay the price and suffer from the restrictions. Illegal users are not affected because the pirated product does not have DRM restrictions.”

The study also concludes that piracy can decrease — at least with music — when a company allows restriction-free downloading.

“Removal of these restrictions makes the product more convenient to use and intensifies competition with the traditional format (CDs), which has no DRM restrictions,” Vernik said. “This increased competition results in decreased prices for both downloadable and CD music and makes it more likely that consumers will move from stealing music to buying legal downloads.”

The study did not address DRM with video content.

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