Frequently Asked Questions


What is DRM?

Digital Rights Management is a collection of technologies designed to give content producers control over the digital content they produce. Most DRM products use strong encryption that requires a digital key to access the content.

What Does the RIAA Say?

To summarize the RIAA, when a recording artist or band is in the studio, they are not gainfully employed in another profession. Copyright is intended to provide a period of time for the artist to have exclusive rights to the work so that they may be compensated for their time and effort. DRM on music files protects the artists so that they are compensated.

How do artists get compensated?

Major record labels are, essentially, venture capitalists. They advance an artist or band money for living expenses and promotion while in the studio and on tour. The royalties from sales of CDs must recoup this expense before the band begins to see any money from their album. Many bands are never able to sell enough albums to recoup this advance.

What happens then?

The artist/band will not make any money. The RIAA says that the profitable bands shore up this loss. As sales of CD’s have fallen, there is less money to research and speculate on new bands. This hurts the consumer because there will be less new music in the future.

Makes Sense, Right?

Well yes and no. The venture capital is repaid by the band’s royalties, not total profits. A band may still owe on the advance, but may also have made the record company a handsome profit, since most royalties paid to bands are only 10 cents or less on the dollar. The record company still gets the other 90 cents. The artist or band does not retain ownership of the recording in most cases.

So, How Does This Justify Illegal File-sharing?

It doesn’t. Copyrighted music should be legally acquired, usually purchased as a CD or an online service such as iTunes or CD Baby. If the artist or band decided that the best way to promote their music is through a record label backed by the RIAA, then their decision should be respected.

What Does it Have to do With DRM?

Not much. The only pro-DRM argument that can be made is that it prevents the revenue loss that results in less new music promoted by the RIAA and its major record labels. This argument is fallacious because the files that are shared over the Internet are ripped directly from CD’s that don’t contain DRM in the first place. So, anti-DRM does not equate to supporting illegal file-sharing.