What Is Digital Rights Management and Why It Is Important for CAD Data Protection

When creating a brand new design, one has to rely on people capable of making the stuff. This involves sharing your digital files. If you do this without continuous protection, your files may become subject to illegitimate use harmful to your business.

To properly manage copyright protection, there are dedicated legislation powers in different countries, so ideally a company hires a person who understands them. But if you produce a lot of materials at a rapid pace, one person may not be enough to do the job.

That's why many businesses employ digital rights management (DRM) tools to keep track of their intellectual property (IP). DRM is a copyright protection approach that makes copying and unlawful use of stolen materials impossible. It helps businesses and freelance contractors prevent pirating their content by limiting user access to specific digital files. 

DRM-protected files are encrypted or have a computer code embedded limiting copying or access.

Today, because of the rise of illegal file exchange services and general accessibility of the internet, online piracy has become a major trouble for creators. According to a 2019 report, online piracy costs the US economy a whopping $29 billion in lost revenue every year. The same report urges industries and governments to collaborate in educating users on how to prevent copyright infringement, but the process is slow. 

DRM is a solution, but it doesn't catch or fine copyright law violators. It increases data security by making it impossible to steal or share the content in the first place.

How DRM works

Generally, DRM tools encrypt files and control the number of users, times, or devices that the content can be used. The technology's approaches and methods in data security are constantly changing and evolving. Frederick W. Dingledy and Alex Berrio Matamoros in their article "What is Digital Rights Management?" have outlined the main processes used to control access to files.

The first way is restricting how a digital product is used by managing permissions to access it. The protection may come in the form of keys that the user needs to enter for the program to work. The key usually is a code made of 8 to 64 letters and numerals that are later authenticated via the internet. In the old days, manufacturers required users to make a phone call to prove they had the code, but it is no longer there.

Another option is user authentication, the data security technology that ensures that people using the file are supposed to do so. It may be proven through some question the answer to which only you know or by the good old password. Today, various internet services prefer to use smartphone authentication by sending you a unique code to type in. Some more advanced ways of protection are eye or fingerprint-scanning technologies

Some other DRM techniques may use internet protocol (IP) addresses to authenticate devices on the internet. IP addresses work the same way the mailing ones, thus making it possible to track the device's location. This, in turn, makes it possible to use regional restrictions to content, the way Netflix does it to enforce copyright and loyalties, in accordance with laws in different countries.

Some companies protect their IP by designing their products to only work with specialized hardware or software. This surely helps counter piracy but also hampers, for example, design outsourcing, as it may be very costly to send equipment to the place where your designer lives. Some virtual libraries like OneDrive use disposable media, making some e-books erase themselves at the end of the checkout period.

The DRM technology can prevent copyright infringement through copy protection measures. As the name suggests, it prevents the user from copying a work. It may be in encryption when the content can only be accessed upon entering a decryption key. The content protected with this method can either be copied just a few times or can't be copied at all. 

But instead of preventing copying, content-makers tend to use digital watermarks. Same as traditional watermarks, it is not noticeable to a regular user. Still, those who want to verify the legitimacy of the copy will know where to find it. Since watermarks are usually unique on every copy of a product,  the content owner will always know which copy exactly was pirated. 

The digital era tends to blend many ways of DRM protection, especially with pirates finding routes to bypass security. Copy protection can be combined with permission restriction in digital fingerprints like the ones CADChain uses in our security solution. Our AutoDesk Inventor plugin generates a digital fingerprint with the creation date and each subsequent change logged into the blockchain.

The digital fingerprint makes you the first in the line of ownership. Should any dispute arise, you will have the means to protect your property. 

Why is DRM necessary?

DRM secures ownership, helping creators prevent anyone from altering, rebranding, or illegally distributing their work. This also works for engineers who want to protect their blueprints and innovations. Apart from securing copyright, DRM protects income generated by the product. It ensures that only paying users get access to it. This feature also helps protect privacy, as unauthorized users can't access confidential or sensitive information.

What is information rights management?

As mentioned before, DRM is a complex security solution that employs an array of tools to restrict access, editing, or altering of digital files beyond the agreed terms of service. The IRM is a subset of this system aimed at protecting sensitive information that may be present in a document. This security solution is significant for companies outsourcing design projects or exchanging documents with third parties.

IRM also encrypts data to determine access. This happens by setting rules, according to which the security solution will grant or deny access to a document or specific actions. The technology makes it easier to determine the conditions of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) since all parties can be sure that the information stays confidential. IRM is useful for designers as it helps reduce costs on legal procedures.

BORIS is much more than DRM. Meet the first IP rights management solution for CAD 

Our solution for data protection is called BORIS, an Autodesk plugin that operates on blockchain. It creates a digital fingerprint of the file's owner and links the data to its creator. Since the information about it is stored on blockchain, it is entirely secure. All operations with it are traceable. 

The blockchain technology timestamps the files in it, so the moment of creation is registered and may serve as proof of ownership.

CADChain makes sure that CAD data sharing is secure and easy. CAD files are always under control of the creators, who are now free to co-create, co-own and co-monetize the works in a user-friendly and secure environment. CAD design becomes an investment that starts bringing extra revenue to its owner.

Legal component

Our solution also uses smart contracts, blockchain-stored programs that run when predetermined conditions are met. They automate the execution of an agreement so that all participants can be immediately certain of the outcome.

This means that smart contract-based documents, such as NDAs and licensing agreements, can be automatically signed by parties who agree to share the file. 

The technology allows for the signing of an NDA with each person for every shared sensitive file. Thus, the file owner is legally protected and the file user lawfully responsible.

The design licensing feature will allow users to sublicense CAD intellectual property to multiple parties. This will increase the possibility of having licensing contracts and not selling your intellectual property all the time. This reuse and co-use of CAD data will increase profit from operational activities.

The legal component will ensure enforceable contracts for every shared file and will protect you even against malicious users.  Try our product Solid Boris for SolidWorks to protect CAD data.