DRM and Privacy

43 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2003 Last revised: 12 May 2014

See all articles by Julie E. Cohen

Julie E. Cohen

Georgetown University Law Center


The future of privacy is increasingly linked to the future of copyright enforcement. In their push to control the proliferation of unauthorized copies, and to maximize profit from information goods distributed over the Internet, copyright owners and their technology partners are designing digital rights management (DRM) technologies that will allow more perfect control over access to and use of digital files. The same capabilities that enable more perfect control also implicate the privacy interests of users of information goods. Although DRM technologies vary considerably, at the most general level they represent an effort to reshape the practices and spaces of intellectual consumption. They also create the potential for vastly increased collection of information about individuals' intellectual habits and preferences. Quite apart from the questions of intellectual property policy that surround DRM technologies, therefore, the proper balance between DRM and user privacy is an important question in its own right.

Interrogating the relationship between copyright enforcement and privacy raises deeper questions about the nature of privacy and what counts, or ought to count, as privacy invasion in the age of networked digital technologies. This Article begins, in Part II, by identifying the different types of privacy interests that individuals enjoy in their intellectual activities and exploring the different ways in which DRM technologies threaten these interests. Part III considers the appropriate scope of legal protection for privacy in the context of DRM, and argues that both the common law of privacy and an expanded conception of consumer protection law have roles to play in protecting the privacy of information users. Finally, Part IV considers whether DRM technologies and standards processes themselves might be harnessed to protect privacy.

Keywords: copyright, digital rights management, privacy

JEL Classification: K3

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Julie E., DRM and Privacy. Berkeley Technological Law Journal, Vol. 18, p. 575-617, 2003, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 372741, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=372741 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.372741

Julie E. Cohen (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/jec/

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