Digital rights management (DRM) is the umbrella term referring to any of several technologies used to enforce pre-defined policies controlling access to software, music, movies, or other digital data and hardware. In more technical terms, DRM handles the description, layering, analysis, valuation, trading and monitoring of the rights held over a digital work. In the widest possible sense, the term refers to any such management.
The term is often confused with copy protection and technical protection measures (TPM). These two terms refer to technologies that control and/or restrict the use and access of digital media content on electronic devices with such technologies installed. There are technical measures that could be used not to restrict use or access, such as to monitor use in order to record rights of a content consumer, DRM critics argue that the phrase "digital rights management" is a misnomer and the term digital restrictions management is a more accurate characterization of the functionality of DRM systems. Some digital media content publishers claim DRM technologies are necessary to prevent revenue loss due to illegal duplication of their copyrighted works. However, others argue that transferring control of the use of media from consumers to a consolidated media industry will lead to loss of existing user rights and stifle innovation in software and cultural productions.
The European Community is expected to create a Recommendation on DRM in 2006, phasing out the use of levies (compensation to rights holders charged on media sales for lost revenue due to piracy) given the advances in DRM/TPM technology.