Digital Rights Management and the Law

‘How do I protect my idea?’ is a question I’m often asked. The answer is simple; ‘You can’t protect your idea, but don’t worry because the way you express it will probably be covered by copyright.’ So, the great idea you have for a computer game or the indispensible app that everyone is going to download whilst you sit back and watch your bank balance swell, is not protected until you actually record the idea permanently in code, onscreen or on paper.

Once you’ve done this, you will almost certainly have created a copyright ‘work’ that is protected by a raft of intellectual property laws. That’s reassuring, but do you really want to rely on costly and time consuming legal proceedings to stop people pirating or cloning it or would you rather prevent users copying it from the outset?  As most people do not consider that digital duplication can be theft, and because it is so easily achieved, business sense surely demands some sort of digital rights management (“DRM’) to protect your work.

DRM at its most basic is a way of preventing a copyright work from being used or duplicated by using key codes, online authorisation (usually via a registered account) to activate the work, or in the case of products such as computer games, embedded programs that install themselves onto the end-users hardware before they can play.

Although there is a general public backlash against DRM, it was initially envisaged to protect the revenue stream for the creator of the work by dis-incentivising copying. The World Intellectual Property Organisation demanded such protection as far back as 1996 and the US Digital millennium Copyright Act 1998 was the first piece of legislation to criminalise DRM circumvention. The EU implemented similar laws in the Copyright Directive and Electronic Commerce Directive, again intended to protect the owners’ rights by prohibiting DRM circumvention, but the digital world has moved on and now most of this legislation seems outdated.

Arrangements such as Creative Commons Licenses and Creative Barcode now offer individuals and businesses the chance to determine how their work may be used and to indelibly mark it with their copyright. Is there a downside legally to using these mechanisms rather than DRM? Probably not.  Creative Barcode enables creatives to authenticate, protect and safely disclose their concepts to third parties before commercialisation. The Creative Barcode micro-barcode enables the rights owner to authenticate, protect and communicate their ownership and permit use for completed works displayed on their websites or third party portals.

Creative Commons  on the other hand provides standard licenses from the rights owner permitting use of the work according to pre-determined parameters so that the creator is always acknowledged and a revenue stream may be created.

So when it comes to protecting your copyright you have options. You can record your work and rely on a judge to agree it’s protected. You can install DRM in your work and rely on users not to circumvent – but what do you do to police this and do you want to? Or you can consider Creative Commons and Creative Barcode mechanisms of permitting accredited use. These signal a more open and co-operative approach to commercialisation of copyright works and may even open discussions about collaborative use and development of your work going forward.

If you would like advice about how to protect your creative output, please contact Joanne Frears at


4 thoughts on “Digital Rights Management and the Law

  1. Joanne – thank you very much for your insightful article and for the inclusion of Creative Barcode – much appreciated.
    One point however is that Creative Barcode enables concept owners to ‘authenticate, protect and safely disclose their concepts to third parties, ‘pre-commercialisation’ in order to secure commercialisation deals of whatever type suits both parties or during new business activities, pre-appointment where work remains the ownership of the creative agency until payment has been made.
    For Dightal Rights Management – creators use the micro-barcode which enables creative and content owners to authenticate, protect and communication ownership and permission based use only for ‘completed’ works contained on their web sites and third party portals.

    We do not issue a variety of licenses.

    The QR code barcodes are created using the App and applied to all written proposals and visual files associated with the concept development and proposition. The creators/owners of the concept then use the file transfer system to safely disclose where the recipient party accepts the terms of the Trust Charter agreement (legally binding and endorsed by World Intellectual Property Organisation) before files can be downloaded.

    The DRM – QR code micro-barcode is applied to completed works displayed on web sites to communicate ownership and permission based use. It is likely to become the ‘IP’ button across the internet worldwide for that purpose.

    Creative Commons enables creators to select one of 6 licenses to communicate free to use or licensing terms terms. It is predominently designed to enable site users to freely utilise works but ensuring a source-credit – so good for Creators such as writers wanting dissemination of their work to support status and profile building as well as those wanting to earn revenues from licensing.
    Hope that clarifies the differences between Creative Commons and Creative Barcode. Users decide which system is best suited to their needs.

    • Thanks for the clarification. This article was going to be published in our law firm’s next newsletter – I’ll make sure I correct it before it goes out. May I quote you on the point about digital rights management online adding to my article…. ‘Creatives wishing to protect work appearing on their websites or third party portals should consider using a micro-barcode. Maxine Horn CEO of Creative Barcode says “a micro barcode enables creative and content owners to authenticate, protect and communicate ownership and usage permissions for ‘completed’ works contained on their web sites and third party portals”, announcing their rights in the material the world at large. Jo

      • Thanks again Joanne. And yes you can quote me as above. Glad I touched base before the printed publication deadline in time to clear up the differences between CC and CB.
        And if at any time you intend to write a piece on the protection of pre-commercialised innovation & creative concepts, then I would also be extremely interested in contributing. In regard to pre-commercialised concept protection I believe Creative Barcode is currently the only digital solution available right now.

        I’ll ping you an email with a power-point that explains why that’s so important – and to get your legal take on it – if I may?

      • Thanks. I think Creative Barcode is the only reasonable & commercially realistic solution for creatives at present. Very happy to take a look at your legal presentation and cast a legal eye over it – you can send it to Jo.

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