DRM also known as Digital Rights Management is a technology that is designed to restrict users from using online media the manner they wish. If you get a video, song, picture etc online and you cannot use the file as you wish on various different programs and platforms then you are being limited by DRM. We call it Digital Restrictions Management because of this, it restricts you the user.
To achieve this on a computer is done via non-free proprietary software. The files are encrypted with special keys that only the content provider knows and as such it is difficult for someone to unlock these files without this key. By using programs that the users cannot study, it is possible to make it extremely difficult for people to liberate what they have purchased.
If people have the program code then they can know how the system works. If the people know how the system works then they can make it work for them.
You cannot store for your own private use later or share the information with friends. This is done by content providers as a way to try and lock the user into their system – to prevent you from having freedom with content you have paid for and even worse – limiting your ability to go to other providers. This can mean that you have to use specific non-free software, buy a specific machine or have to continue paying for access to this content. And once support for these things are gone, so is the access to the content. You are at the mercy of the companies and their quest for viable profits. All major technology companies today will force you into this power play position.
To copy and share information is one of the core functions of a computers and sharing is one of the core tenants of society – by limiting the ability of the machine to do its job you end up limiting the society that relies on it.
Content providers try to impose physical world equivalents onto digital machines, to limit the machines potential simply to serve an older business model. One that involved separate unique copies for everyone rather than letting people share what they have. It is the equivalent of a computer being forcefully limited to the functionality of a book. Or a Car being limited to the speed of a horse. Rather than innovate to a new model; they hold onto the old one with trickery.
DRM is an attack on the rights of society and the individuals that make it up. If you cannot copy and share information with other people then it is restricting you and you should not accept these files or the service that provide them.
To make matters more difficult, in a lot of countries it is considered illegal to break these DRM systems. Even if you have bought the file and break it open for your own private use; this is enough to break the law and be punished for this. To be clear: The Copyright is still valid and violation of the relevant licence is still illegal – we do not encourage breaking the law in any situation.
You should choose to buy from those that do not want to limit your rights. This means buying from musicians that use free/libre formats such as Mp3, Ogg, Opus and even non-encrypted Compact Discs. Buying DVD’s that do not have encryption and allow you to make copies whenever possible. Getting eBooks in non-proprietary formats such as ePub or PDF. By choosing content that respects your freedoms then you will encourage more people to release in this manner.
If a digital file cannot be used with Free/Libre software then it does not respect your freedoms and is a digital jail trying to control you.