The Ultimate Guide to DRM (Digital Rights Management)

Sunny Choudhary Feb 24th, 2023

Did you know that every year, more than 127 bn episodes of US TV shows are not viewed legally? In such a scenario, how will you safeguard video content online in which you have invested a lot of time, effort and money?

The answer is DRM, i.e. Digital Rights Management. Let’s dive in for a detailed overview of DRM here.

Digital Rights Management: An Introduction

Digital Rights Management is an efficient way of protecting different types of digital content from unauthorized access and use. In other words, it usually limits the copying and use of copyrighted works.

Digital Rights Management allows creators to control what paying users can do with their works. It has become a prime requirement for streaming video platforms as these days more premium content is delivered via the public Internet. Currently, DRM is playing a crucial role in data security.

How Digital Right Management Works?

  • DRM starts by verifying that video content is stored and transmitted in an encrypted form, thus only authorized users and devices can play it back.
  • Before it is streamed, video content needs to be encrypted and packaged using multiple DRM schemes. When a user strives to play back a video on the OTT platform or app, the player requests a key from a license server.
  • The server further determines whether the user and device are permitted or not, before issuing a license response with a decryption key. The player can then easily decrypt and playback the requested content for the user.

Here is the process for DashWidevine along with some of the protection schemes. Also, how to encrypt and package content for each with static delivery.

live stream platforms

DRM Framework in Android

A DRM framework is offered by the Android platform, which enables apps to manage rights-protected content as per the license restrictions imposed on the content. The device maker determines the DRM schemes a device supports; the DRM framework also supports a variety of DRM methods. For app developers, this DRM framework offers a standard interface and hides the complexity of DRM procedures. Both protected and unprotected information can operate in the same manner easily, thanks to the DRM architecture. By using license metadata, DRM methods can create sophisticated usage models. The DRM framework manages rights management and creates a connection between DRM content and license. This makes it possible to remove the media player from content that is DRM-protected or unprotected.

Check Out MediaDrm for the class to obtain keys for decrypting protected media streams.

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Figure 1a- DRM hardware abstraction Layer before Android 11 (Image Source)


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Figure 1b- DRM hardware abstraction Layer starting in Android 11 (Image Source)

The availability of rich digital content is essential to users on mobile devices. Android developers and digital content providers require an uniform DRM approach supported across the Android ecosystem in order to make their content publicly accessible. Google offers DRM on compatible Android devices without a licence charge in order to make that digital content accessible on Android devices and to guarantee that there is at least one consistent DRM available across all devices. The DRM plugin is linked with the Android DRM framework and secure premium content, and user credentials by hardware-backed security.

The security and content protection features of the underlying hardware platform are a prerequisite for the content safety offered by the DRM plugin. It is recommended that hardware secure boot should be on top priority among the device’s hardware capabilities to create a security protocol and protect cryptographic keys.

Nowadays, not all hardware platforms support all of the above security and content protection features. However, the combination of hardware security features, a trusted boot mechanism, and an isolated secure OS for handling security functions is critical to providing a secure device.


The DRM framework is designed to be implementation agnostic and abstracts the details of the specific DRM scheme implementation in a scheme-specific DRM plugin. This framework includes easy to use APIs to manage complex DRM operations, get licenses, provision the device, associate DRM content and its license, and further decrypt the content.

The Android DRM framework is implemented in two architectural layers:

  • A DRM framework API, which is linked to apps through the Android application framework.
  • A native code DRM framework, which exposes an interface for DRM plugins (agents) to better manage the rights management and decryption for several DRM schemes.

online video hosting platform

Figure 2a. DRM framework before Android 11 (Image Source)

custom ott platform

Figure 2b. DRM framework starting in Android 11 (Image Source)

Digital Rights Management Use Cases

  1. Digital rights management allows creators to prevent unauthorized use of their content.
  2. Digital rights management facilitate companies in controlling access to confidential data, while at the same time allowing it to be shared securely.
  3. Digital rights management ensures that digital work remains unaltered. Digital creators want their work to be distributed in its original form to basically serve intended purposes.
  4. Several companies in the manufacturing, technology, and biotech sectors now store sensitive patents, trademarks, customer information, and processes across multiple storage platforms, both on-prem and off-prem.

Key Benefits of Digital Rights Management

  1. Digital rights management informs companies about copyright and intellectual property.
  2. DRM offers better licensing agreements and technologies.
  3. DRM can help secure files and keep them private.
  4. Digital rights management protects income streams faster.

Final Words

Digital assets hold a substantial amount of the content that people interact with on a daily basis. With a quality DRM solution, digital media & publishing companies can implement different content and user controls for different groups of users. Similar to the scenario used above for standards organizations, media & publishing firms can charge a cheaper price for users to purchase view-only access to their video or eBook content, content i.e. visible on one device alone, but for a higher, premium fee, they can access the content on many devices.

We, at Enveu understand the value of content security and encryption when it comes to creating an OTT solution. If you are looking for ways to protect your video content, trust our experts at Enveu. We will take care of your OTT service requirements. Get in touch with us today!

Sunny Choudhary
Software Engineer - Android

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