At Digital Recourse, we constantly encourage our readers to obtain their entertainment media through legitimate means. However, sometimes it pays off to know how to check if a file is DRM protected, which is precisely what we’re going to detail below. It never feels good, having something on your computer that makes you question its legitimacy. You never know what sort of trouble it might lead to, whether that be questionable legality or just an amplified risk of malware or viruses finding their way onto your machine.
DRM (Digital Rights Management) tags are fairly easy to check for, so if you want to legitimize your audio or video files, read on! We’ll help you out.
If you’re a newbie to the digital media scene — or if you’ve never delved deeply into it before — we’ll bring you up to speed. DRM is the process by which copyrighted media is tagged and cataloged as such. The actual title that this acronym stands for, Digital Rights Management, accurately summarizes the purpose and executions for the entire system. It’s in place to help content creators, distributors, and owners manage their copyright holdings over digital media.
Given that online spaces are constantly in flux, and the ways that people are trading and sharing various types of media are constantly changing, the DRM system is essential. It provides legal protection where none might not otherwise exist, and it works in the most feasible way that it possibly can. When a particular audio or video file is protected under DRM, it’s tagged as such. Removing or tampering with DRM tagging is illegal in most countries, as is the development of tools that are meant to do so.
Even possessing files that have had their DRM tags messed with (or removed) can land you in hot water, which is why the instructions we’re going to feature are somewhat imperative. Illegal filesharing and downloading isn’t slowing down, and though we constantly urge our readers to obtain their media through legitimate means, it’s nevertheless important to be able to double check what you’re downloading.
The Purpose of DRM
As stated above, the entire purpose of the DRM system is to keep copyrighted content controlled. Which is understandable, considering how much money and talent is usually poured into the creation of copyrighted entertainment media. Movies? TV? Music albums? Books? Comics? It all gets adequate DRM treatment, such that the system has become the baselines for managing copyrighted content around the world. No matter where you live, DRM is what’s keeping this content from being freely traded and shared, without repercussions.
Does It Work?
Of course, any system that has so much riding on its shoulders has to be examined with scrutiny. DRM does its job pretty well, but it’s by no means a perfect system. Part of this is due to the way that DRM works, but much of the responsibility lies with how the internet works, on a larger scale.
Digital Rights Management tags are particularly hard to remove and circumvent, which is most of the reason that the system is effective. Discounting the fact that it’s usually very easy to know whether a file should be protected under copyright, it’s often a simple task to know whether something previously had a DRM tag.
The much larger concern that has sparked a wildfire of debate around DRM is whether or not it actually does anything to prevent piracy or the illegal trading of copyrighted materials. There’s a solid debate behind this, and the biggest proponent of that opinion is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.) They claim that, because DRM doesn’t actually help to fight piracy, all that it does is overcomplicate consumers’ ownership of media that they have legally paid for. After all, when you buy a movie, TV show, or any type of copyrighted music, it retains DRM tags — they don’t go away, even when ownership is legally transferred from a retailer to yourself.
Should I Be Worried?
Before online piracy became such a prevalent issue (which was inevitable), this was never much of a question for the average consumer. If you buy a piece of media, it’s legally yours, and only the barest of copyright stipulations still applied to what you’d purchased.
Now, in an effort to fight against illegal file-sharing, DRM has made this issue far more complicated. One might argue that it’s a necessary complication, but we’re not going to be wading into that debate, here; it’s simply enough to be aware that it exists, and consumers are unfortunately caught right in the middle of it.
So, should you be worried? This is a hard question to answer, but if we had to make an off-the-cuff response, we’d encourage you to relax. As long as you’re not actively engaged in the removal of DRM tags, or the trading of copyrighted files that have clearly had their DRM removed, you’re going to be okay. As is the case with most issues of questionable legality, being aware of the current laws and landscape is usually enough to keep you safe.
Checking for DRM
It’s relatively easy to check for DRM, which is something to be glad for. We’re happy for a simple process, amidst the firestorm of debate that’s surrounding this admittedly complicated issue.
First, you’re going to have to locate the files in question on your computer. That means a little bit of menu-diving, but nothing too intense. Most DRM-related questions have to do with video games, movies, music, and ebooks (including comics.) Once you’ve found the files that you’re curious about, you only have a few steps left! We’ll tackle the process for Windows users, first, and then take a look at the very similar steps that Mac users will need to follow.
Right-click on the file in question, and then select Properties. Along the tabs at the top of the subsequent window, select Details. From here, you’ll have to scroll down a fair bit to find the listing for Content, under which you’ll find the Protection information. If a file isn’t protected by DRM or any other copyright, it will simply say, “No.” Otherwise, this is where you’ll find information about the particular type of protection that the file has.
This process can be used for any type of media that carries DRM, so feel free to use it to check anything on your computer that you might otherwise question.
The steps will be relatively the same, in Mac, and any other software or operating system that you’re choosing to use. All that you truly need to do is look at the file properties of whatever type of media you’re curious about, and look for information on “Protection.” It never gets more difficult than that, primarily because the DRM system doesn’t want to be a hidden feature of your media.
Within the file finder on your Mac, click on Get Info. Find the More Info section of the file in question, and you’ll be able to see if there’s any existing copyright protection tagged to the file. Easy-peasy, right? For iTunes addicts, you can perform relatively the same exact function within the iTunes app, thereby letting you check on files’ protection status without needing to dive through a bunch of system menus.
DRM – Best Practices
Thankfully, most users don’t have to worry about DRM on a regular basis. Since a majority of people aren’t looking to share or distribute their media, copyright protection issues never even enter their radar. For this crowd, DRM is a non-issue.
However, if a large part of your media library is digital, DRM is unavoidable. Not only that, it can complicate your ability to spread that media across multiple devices, which should be your right as a customer, after purchasing a particular game, movie, song, or other bits of entertainment. The obfuscation of copyright policies and protections is unavoidable, but as long as you know how to navigate the DRM water, you’ll be okay.
For the most part, as long as you’re the only person using DRM-protected content, you’re going to be okay. Things only become complicated when DRM-protected media begins changing hands in questionable ways. Selling a DVD or giving it away? Perfectly fine. Sharing copyright videos via torrents or other online file sharing and distribution systems? So ‘not okay’ that it’s actually illegal.
Here are some simple “best practices” that you can follow when dealing with DRM-protected media, purely for the sake of keeping yourself safe:
- Before you share any files with other people, check for DRM protection.
- Whenever you download media online, check for DRM tags. If they’re present, and the content came from an unknown source, it could spell trouble.
- Read up on DRM, and know how it limits your ability to use the media that you own.
- Always double-check the source for your media. Online stores are generally safe, but those offering “free” movies or music are often questionable.
They’re pretty basic steps, but using the above knowledge, you should easily know how to check to see if a file is DRM protected. And even though we’re reluctant to wade into the DRM debate, that doesn’t mean we’d be opposed to hearing your thoughts on the subject. Let us know, in the comments below!