Digital Rights Management (DRM) White Paper Released

11/2/2018:  Washington, D.C. – Seeking to arm government archivists and records managers with important information and guidance surrounding the protection of rights associated with digital content, today during the 2018 Fall Regional Forum in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) announced the release of a white paper addressing the topic of Digital Rights Management (DRM).


“Digital Rights Management ultimately means technological measures that restrict the behavior of users,” said Nicholas Connizzo, Digital Archivist at the Vermont State Archives & Records Administration and a member of NAGARA’s DRM Working Group who spearheaded the research and development of the white paper. “These technological protections can impair the essential components of electronic recordkeeping processes: description, access, and long-term preservation. DRM technologies often go unnoticed by day-to-day users, but archivists and records managers must be aware that a significant amount of government-employed software is encumbered with DRM.”


In the public sector, electronic data now comprises a significant portion of public records. Electronic records require electronic recordkeeping systems, and these systems often ensure security of and access to information through the application of DRM. Many public entities have willingly turned over control of their data to organizations that use DRM to rightfully protect copyright, patents, and other information. With the great expansion in government contracting of cloud-based products and services, vendors maintain control over products and data like never before.


The rights DRM is designed to protect – most often copyright, trademarks, and other intellectual property rights – expire after specific periods defined in law. DRM rarely expires, however, meaning that technological controls can persist far longer than necessary or intended, especially if the protections are built into recordkeeping systems, or into records themselves. The white paper points out that this poses a clear and present danger to the long-term preservation of electronic information, and especially the ability for governments to provide continued access to electronic records.


“NAGARA believes public records and public information rightly belongs to the public, and potential dangers abound when allowing private entities to play a role as a gatekeeper to public information,” said Johnny Hadlock, Executive Director of NAGARA. “While DRM does attempt to protect legitimate rights, its over-application can render vast quantities of public records unreadable or inaccessible, possibly permanently. It would be especially concerning if the ability to circumvent or remove DRM for legitimate concerns (such as preservation of public information) is impaired or prohibited. We applaud the Library of Congress for its continued study and work as part of its recent rulemaking, and hope to contribute to the process in the future.”


Because DRM is an issue that requires understanding by professionals at all levels, NAGARA invites all archivists, records managers, records administrators, and those involved in government contracting to review the Digital Rights Management white paper and be aware of the issues that could affect them. The white paper offers suggestions for practitioners and administrators to begin addressing the existence of DRM in contracting and procurement processes, digital preservation workflows, and more.


For more information about NAGARA’s DRM white paper, contact Johnny Hadlock, Executive Director of NAGARA. Other members of the NAGARA DRM Working Group include Kris Stenson, ORMS Administrator at the Oregon State Archives, Christopher Magee, Archives Specialist at NARA, and Arian Ravanbakhsh, Supervisor, Policy and Program Support Team (ACPP) at NARA.

Access the white paper here

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