Digital Armor

By Susan Marks  |  Posted 10-10-2002 Print Email

Digital Armor

A wide range of new technology is being developed to prevent online piracy of ideas and creative work, from music to business research. Some embed usage rights into the information being distributed, restricting how it can be used, what can be seen and how often. Other controls use software codes to notify content owners each time his or her work changes hands or is used in a new way. Some even force data to self-destruct if used in violation of agreements governing use. Here are some of the most common:


Uses an algorithm to create a secure container around a piece of content and allows the content owner to determine how that content will be used. Those usage terms, sometimes known as Digital Rights Management agreements, are then enforced by software.

advantage | Always-on encryption keeps content away from third parties while in user hands and prevents data from being modified.

disadvantage | Integration with other software may be hard. Also, terms-of-use enforcement could turn off some users.


Software that binds content users to specific ownership and licensing rules dictating how digital data can be used, enabling intellectual property owners to collect royalties and identify violators.

advantage | Gives content owners more control over who sees and uses their information.

disadvantage | It's not foolproof; some password and license-sharing still goes on.


Software that allows owners of content to insert a digital "stamp" or unique identifier into their data, which acts as a copyright statement and travels with it throughout its use. The original file is stored, and the watermarked file is distributed for use.

advantage | Provides a simple way to prove ownership of content; deters some infringement and unauthorized use.

disadvantage | Some watermarks can be hacked and erased from the file. Insertion requires complex and sophisticated programming.


Software and services that process financial transactions such as debiting and crediting accounts, provide financial verification and authentication, and manage royalties.

advantage | Ensures more secure financial transactions.

disadvantage | Lack of standards may hamper widespread interoperability and systems integration.


Software and services for tracking and reporting who has what content, how it has been used, when it was used, and for what purpose. Includes audit trails, logs and usage reports, and digital fingerprinting.

advantage | Allows for content metering based on time and detailed usage conditions. Also enables automatic product feedback.

disadvantage | Employees, strategic partners and customers may resent limits on viewing certain content and technologies that closely track human behaviors.



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