Everywhere you look, you see people with some sort of multimedia device. When you’re at the gym, people are working out to their favorite tune on their iPod, Zune or other media player. When you’re in your car, the minivan in front of you has a DVD movie playing. People are now listening to music on their cell phones. Audio and video devices are everywhere and we all want to be able to access it or give it to anyone we choose. And we should be able to do it because we bought it – Right? That’s not nearly the case. We can’t play our MP3s on any device. We can’t watch videos or movies on any device. We can’t share music or other media via the Internet anytime and with anyone we choose. Why? Besides you would be in violation of state and federal laws to say the least. Also, there is technology being implemented slowly but surely into our digital media to prevent you from sharing it.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a term that refers to the technology being developed and used by media publishers to control the usage of digital data and hardware.

If you own an iPod and subscribe to iTunes, you have experienced DRM first hand. The data files that iTunes sells are encoded with DRM and will only allow you to access the files on your computer of your iPod. These files are not transferable to Microsoft’s Zune, Creative’s Zen or any other portable media device. DRM is also beginning to be incorporated into many digital videos. According to Nielsen Soundscan, there were 418.6 million tracks downloaded in 2005 and with the majority of the tracks from iTunes, many are encoded with DRM technology.

The second-largest online music store, eMusic, has sold 90 million songs in the last three years and more combined than every other online retailer except for iTunes. None of the files were encoded with DRM. “That was certainly a conscious decision and it’s for a simple reason,” says eMusic CEO David Pakman. “That’s what the customers want.”

There are advantages to data files with DRM technology. First, it does give the artist some control of their works. Just think, would you take months to create a work of art, then just give it away to anyone and everyone? Artist and actors should be compensated for their art and that’s the advantage of DRM. The disadvantages are if a particular song or movie is on iTunes, you can only access it with your computer or an iPod. If you own a Toshiba Gigabeat, you cannot access media from Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace. No one wants to walk around with 3 or more media players and subscribing to two, three or more music download services.

What you must remember is that when you made your music or movie purchase, whether it was via the net or in a store, you purchased one copy. That copy did not entitle you to make multiple copies for sale or distribution and this is the reason for many publishers using DRM technology.

The world and technology are becoming more secure and DRM is only one technology on the forefront. Files encoded with DRM can be quite an annoyance, however they are needed to curve music, movie and software piracy. “Give consumers a file that will play in any device and consumers will be willing to pay for it,” says Steve Gordon, author of “The Future of the Music Business.” If there is only one choice of media, we’ll all have to pay for it or not listen or watch at all.