What is DRM and how does it impact you?

DK Media Blog: What is DRM ?

DRM (Digital Rights Management) has always been a point of contention amongst the tech-savvy, but is also a headache for the typical end-user, even if they have never heard the term DRM before. From wikipedia, we can define DRM as:”a class of access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale.” Ouch, this does sound a tad Draconian, doesn’t it?

DRM is a form of copy-protection by content owners. It stops you from sharing your media with everyone out there, usually by tying it to an account, limiting the number of uses, requiring specific software to be installed, etc. While this is a big plus for risk-adverse content owners to move to digital, it can cause some consumer headaches. DRM is used for a number of reasons, and it probably impacts you right now even though you may not think about it.

Basically, DRM is meant to prevent the widespread piracy of digital goods. Sony’s PSN Videos may be seen as a extreme form of DRM – one download, licensed only for the device you purchased it on. Did your hard drive break or did you do a backup? Time to beg Sony for a “one-time exception” to that content that you thought you purchased. Torrents may be seen as the extreme anti-thesis – a peer-to-peer network, with no central servers, where users are free to share whatever they want. Obviously, this does open the door to piracy, but surely there must be something in between legitimate purchases and full blown piracy?

The Good

There are some great examples of DRM out there which I feel really favour the consumer. I will be dedicating a post to these examples soon, but I’d like to mention ComiXology.com here. It is a great service for reading digital comics on PCs, tablets and smartphones, and I have never felt restricted by their DRM. Rather, I feel it makes it convenient to have my favourite comics living in the cloud.

The Bad

If implemented poorly, DRM can be incredibly harmful to the end-user experience. I often find it limiting, and feel that it can easily detract from the value of the product. I recently purchased The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 and as usual got the free digital copy. The same digital copy that I have never used. Why? First, I need to run it on Windows or Mac. So much for my 6 Linux PCs or my 5 Android devices. Second, I have to login and connect a device and do a bunch of other stuff? Why not just put a digital copy on the disc and use a single login (i.e. facebook or something similar) and hope that I don’t turn around and sell it on a street corner? I can’t even give these away to friends, and if I tried selling them I’m sure someone like these guys would not be pleased.

The Ugly

I would like to throw a radical concept out there: your customers don’t like being treated like criminals! And even scarier then that, many of your customers are probably not criminals! Mind blowing, huh? And even more radical: people want to actually OWN something that they buy. They don’t want a revocable license, they don’t want a generous license, they want what they were promised! To BUY something.

Confused? Basically, with just about any digital purchase (and many physical ones), you are merely buying a license to use something as long as the content holder sees fit. If their service goes under, or if they decide that you are using your purchases inappropriately, then kiss your license goodbye. Think this only applies to media? According to Sony, you can’t really own a PS3, because they only want you to use it how they say you can use it. Extreme (although highly hypothetical and probably not valid) legal theories even propose that content owners could take physical media away from you if they so chose. Second-hand sales in the gaming industry will likely become restricted in the near future, and don’t even think about selling your digital media.

Does this sound ridiculous? Ridiculous is the fact that these restrictive licensing schemes have been in use for OVER A CENTURY.


While it’s far too easy to focus on the negatives of DRM (and I am certainly guilty of that here) my next post will focus on some real shining examples. When done right, DRM really brings out the benefits and value of digital media, and I hope to share it soon.

Rodolfo Martinez

Article keywords: what is DRM

#waystokillanidea – It is too expensive.

Ways to Kill an Idea – #4. It is too expensive

Here is part 4 on my blog series of how to kill an idea. I’ll quickly recap three ideas from a recent conference that motivated me to write these posts:
1. Fail fast, fail forward.
2. Do not be afraid to think big.
3. Do not automatically say no.

We love to say no, even when it shouldn’t be our first response. We do need to be cautious, but a quick “No” is a great way to stifle innovation and kill ideas. Whether we are scared, unsure, or uncertain, we quickly come up with some great (and not so great) excuses, which often are just ways to kill ideas. While the entries in this series are independent, I do encourage you to go back and read the previous ones. For those that have been following along, here goes #4: It is too expensive.

To me, too expensive isn’t something that should be thrown out immediately or thrown around lightly. While a luxury car may be deemed too expensive, so might a heart transplant. Before writing off something as too expensive, I like to follow these golden rules:

1. Do you know the actual cost, or are you just guessing?
2. Have you measured the benefits or returns? (Remember, gains need not be solely financial!)
3. Expensive usually implies something big – is this project/undertaking/thing as big as you think, and if so do alternatives exist?

While these may be oversimplified criteria, I do believe that they can be used to narrow down if something is truly expensive, or if we are just being truly lazy or truly un-creative. Either way, a bit of analysis can’t hurt, especially if we are being presented with something completely absurd. Of course, if I present to my team that I’d like to fly to Mars, that isn’t quite the same as asking to launch a new campaign. Yet, our knee-jerk reaction may be to treat these as the same thing and quickly dole out a “It’s too expensive”. In order to clarify, I’ll talk a bit more about the rules mentioned above.

1. Do you know the actual cost, or are you just guessing?

2005 Porsche Carrera GT

I know that a Porsche is expensive. But I don’t know exactly how expensive. I also know that a consultant may sound expensive, or that a marketing campaign may sound expensive, but do I really know? You may be surprised how little something actually costs. Alternatively, consider that this can go both ways: don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions to make sure that you have ALL of the costs before green-lighting something. Costs are more then just dollars and cents – consider lost time, impact on your operations, your team and maybe even your image. A lot of the little details and extras can add up – and quick.

2. Have you measured the benefits or returns?

Again, this can often be more then dollars and cents! Some initiatives can have a strong positive impact on your organization’s image, and sometimes if just feels nice to do some social good. Don’t be afraid to start adopting triple-bottom line metrics, and of course, there’s the classic ROI. Sure, something might sound like a lot of money, but if it gives massive returns, then why not invest?

3. Is this too big or are their alternatives?

Sometimes, things DO cost too much, regardless of potential returns. However, we can often make things more complicated or bigger than they should be. If you like an idea but don’t like the cost, consider evaluating both the scope and scale, and how they may relate to your strategic goals. Maybe you can roll something out in phases, or maybe you only need a piece. And even if you do need the whole thing, are their alternatives?

This may sound silly (and overly obvious), but google is your friend. It really is. You would be amazed at what you can find, and the alternatives that it may present. It is entirely possible to build your own social network, fund a venture without the use of traditional lenders, outsource part of your business, and even build your own mobile apps. This is just a short list of some of the great initiatives that the Internet has made accessible to us. The average cost of these? Less than $500.00.

I do want to reiterate that costs are important and must be monitored. Money is too important to throw away, but we need to carefully evaluate opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, explore alternatives and do some real thinking before saying “No”.

Don’t let the “too expensive” mindset kill a good idea.

– Rodolfo Martinez

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#waystokillanidea – It is not serious

Ways to Kill an Idea – #3. It is not serious

As written previously, a conference I recently hosted focused on 3 key ideas:
1. Fail fast, fail forward.
2. Do not be afraid to think big.
3. Do not say no.

Generally, we love to say no, even when it doesn’t make sense. Sure, we need to be cautious, but it is far too easy to let the dreaded “No” kill ideas, and innovation. When we are scared, uncertain or unsure, we are great at coming up with some great (and not so great) excuses and ways to kill ideas. So here goes #3: It is not serious.

Not serious? Are you serious? Some great, non-serious ideas have been used to launch products, reinvent corporate images, and ultimately expand market shares. Often, these can represent permanent shifts. And yes, while the words PERMANENT SHIFT can be scary, they are coming whether we want them too or not. Our economy, environment, and all the other things that make our world so dynamic simply cannot be stopped. So don’t let something that might be too fun stop you from trying something that could pay off.

Of course, not wanting to kill ideas shouldn’t mean that we always say “yes”, but let’s just not be so quick with it. Here are some examples of “non-serious” ideas that paid off – big-time:

1. The Dell Dude.

The Dell Dude

Yes, the infamous Dell dude. The whole “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” that ended once he got busted for pot-related charges. While silly, I do believe that it opened up a completely new market for Dell. This is the sort of non-serious idea that takes you from reliable corporate machines to the kind of PC that people want in their homes.

2. Yo (No) Quiero Taco Bell!

yo quiero taco bell

If we include an infamous dude, then of course we need. This cute little dog (who was a female despite having a male voice) with a stereotypical Latino accent (yeah, as a proud Mexican I should be insulted, but man it was funny and I do know lots of people who sound like that when they try and speak English).

Anyways, this little dog convinced people that they wanted Taco Bell. Personally, I will NEVER want anything from Taco Bell, but this was a clever little piece of marketing. Taco Bell eventually scrapped this campaign as they felt that the marketing instrument had become more recognizable then the brand.

3. WWF/WWE’s “Get it?” Super Bowl Spot

wwe ceo vince mcmahon
WWE CEO Vince McMahon – Credit: WWE / The Silver State Chronicle

Ah, the WWE. One of my lifelong purveyors of guilty pleasures. This is probably the best company that I can think of that isn’t afraid of the un-serious. While they have gone over the top many, many, many times, and made some just plain terrible calls, they understand that the non-serious can sell.

In particular, in 1999, WWE (then the WWF) did something unheard of in the Wrestling industry: they purchased a Super Bowl spot in hopes of broadening their market. An investment of “just” $1.2 million (estimated in 1999 dollars) showed that the WWE were really good sports. Gone were the days of trying to convince others that this was a competitive sport, as WWE embraced their spot in entertainment. By admitting that wrestling was indeed “fake”, WWE turned their backs on over a century of wrestling tradition, and are now a publicly traded company. While maybe not a company that garners tremendous respect, this is a huge leap for something that began in carnavals and later transitioned to smoke filled arenas.

So there you have it. Yes, we need to be serious. Yes, we must be professional. But we must not be afraid, and above all else, not too serious.

As with any other instance, this excuse is only good for one thing: killing ideas.

– Rodolfo Martinez

Article Keywords: ways to kill an idea we have no time

#waystokillanidea – We Have No Time.

Ways to Kill an Idea – #2. We Have No Time.

As I wrote previously, at a conference I hosted, we focused on 3 key ideas:
1. Fail fast, fail forward.
2. Do not be afraid to think big.
3. Do not say no.

We are too often quick to say no, even when it doesn’t make sense. While sometimes we need to be cautious, we let “No” kill ideas, and ultimately innovation. We come up with some great excuses and ways to kill ideas. I’d like to talk about Way #2: We Have No Time.

I recently re-read The 4 Hour Workweek and the 80/20 Principle. These are two excellent reads, and I can’t recommend them enough. These books have taught me some valuable life and business lessons. Above all else, if we allow ourselves to, we have an abundance of time.

That’s right – not a little, not just enough, an ABUNDANCE. If you have an idea that is worth capitalizing on, don’t find excuses, find time. Great innovators don’t allow an excuse like this to kill great ideas. Great innovators don’t allow ANY excuse to kill an idea.

We have no time. I’ve heard this one so many times. I’ve heard it in large corporations, small non-profits and startups. No one is immune to this one. While resources are limited, don’t be afraid to try new things. Often, low-cost, short-term initiatives can have superior and long-lasting impacts.

I know that it’s not easy, and that we do need to examine what is most important, and to give priority to activities that generate the greatest rewards. And remember: rewards do not need to be (and often are not) financial.

Remember, this excuse is good for one thing: killing ideas.

– Rodolfo Martinez

Article Keywords: ways to kill an idea we have no time

#waystokillanidea – It Can’t Be Done

#waystokillanidea – It Can’t Be Done

I recently hosted a conference on immigrant entrepreneurship, which was meant to drive home three key ideas:
1. Fail fast, fail forward.
2. Do not be afraid to think big.
3. Do not say no.

Obviously, there are some things we should all say no to, but generally speaking, we are often to quick with the dreaded “no”. Specifically, we are far too quick at killing ideas. Our keynote, Julie Young-Marcellin (who did a fantastic job) left us with some ways as to how ideas are killed. While everyone began laughing at each item, it became clear that we’ve all heard them before for either one of two reasons:

a) We heard someone say them, and couldn’t believe that they did, or;
b) We said them ourselves, and looking back we weren’t entirely sure why.

I realized that since I’ve been neglecting twitter lately, I would share some of these with you. While BCG originally entitled this “120 Ways to Kill an Idea”, I’ve trimmed this down to my favourite 80 or so. Be sure to follow @rodolfo_dkm for #waystokillanidea.

Here goes #1: It Can’t Be Done.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard this. A part of my gets quite upset when I hear this; another part wants to prove people wrong. Sure, some things can’t be done – i.e. I can’t flap my wings and fly to Mars, but most often we use this excuse in a poor context:

This technology can’t be developed; This product can’t be marketed; This book/movie/game can’t be made appealing. Either way, this excuse is good for one thing: killing ideas. Remember, if you have a great idea, don’t let it be killed!

– Rodolfo Martinez

Article Keywords: #waystokillanidea – It Can’t Be Done