Removing restrictions could help campuses decrease music piracy

Campuses have seen dramatic drops in illegal file sharing after adopting anti-piracy software.

A group of Rice and Duke university researchers say doing away with Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions could be the next step in fighting illegal downloads on college campuses.

Campus technology officials have used myriad methods to combat the use of college networks to rip copyrighted files from the internet without permission, and while these strategies have often curbed the frequency of illegal downloads, research published Oct. 7 challenges the theory that strict digital restrictions are a surefire way to cut down on piracy and increase profits for rights holders.

Removing DRM restrictions, according to the research, can decrease internet piracy because that makes the “product more convenient to use and intensifies competition with the traditional format (CDs), which has no DRM restrictions.”

When competition spikes and prices drop, it’s “more likely that consumers will move from stealing music to buying legal downloads,” said Dinah Vernik, one of the study’s lead researchers.

To learn more about how colleges and universities are curbing illegal file sharing on campus networks, register for the FREE webinar “Addressing Music and Movie Piracy on Campus” to be held Nov. 3.

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

Researchers quotes in the study from Duke and Rice universities, “Music Downloads and the Flip Side of Digital Rights Management Protection,” admit that they come to “counterintuitive conclusion[s]” that making DRM policies more stringent might increase file piracy on college campuses.

“By analyzing the competition among the traditional retailer, the digital retailer and pirated music, we get a better understanding of the competitive forces in the market,” Vernik said.

Colleges and universities launched internal programs and hired digital management companies to help them crack down on illegal file sharing after the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 required all U.S. campuses to “effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including through the use of a variety of technology-based deterrents.”

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