Digital rights management (DRM) is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices. The term is used to describe any technology which inhibits uses (legitimate or otherwise) of digital content that were not desired or foreseen by the content provider. The term generally doesn't refer to other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the file or device, such as serial numbers or keyfiles. It can also refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices. Digital rights management is being used by companies such as Sony, Apple Inc., Microsoft and the BBC.
The use of digital rights management is controversial. Proponents argue it is needed by copyright holders to prevent unauthorized duplication of their work, either to maintain artistic integrity or to ensure continued revenue streams. Some opponents, such as the Free Software Foundation, maintain that the use of the word "rights" is misleading and suggest that people instead use the term digital restrictions management. Their position is essentially that copyright holders are attempting to restrict use of copyrighted material in ways that are not covered by existing laws and should not be covered by future laws. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other opponents, also consider DRM systems to be anti-competitive practices.
In practice, all widely-used DRM systems are eventually defeated or circumvented. Completely restricting the copying of audio and visual material is impossible due to the inevitable analog hole.