Current literature focusing on stakeholder analysis of DRM has not been widely discussed so far and has not led to a better understanding of the various stakeholders‚ interests and attitudes or of their relative power to accomplish their goals. Most of these works lack in-depth analyses and conclusions. This article is a first attempt to help closing this gap. It takes the music industry as an example and identifies the various stakeholders involved and outlines their power to achieve their goals.

Interests and attitudes of stakeholders towards DRMs
The various stakeholders have different interests in, and attitudes towards, Digital Rights Management and the underlying technologies and related technology bills. Interests of all types of stakeholders may be difficult to define and even in the same „category“ of stakeholders attitudes may differ. In the case of artists, unknown artists might prefer to distribute their songs over P2P networks while others might prefer to stop this sharing. Thus, Table 1 and the explanations provided within it are not conclusive and may lack completeness but it does outline the broad interests and attitudes each „actor group“ has toward Digital Rights Management.

Table 1: Stakeholders in the music industry

StakeholderExamplesInterest and attitude towards DRMs
ArtistCreators of content such as artists, singers, songwriters, composers.(1) Wish to protect their Intellectual Property. (2) Are for fair use, free speech, and artistic freedom to innovate and create new content. (3) Well-known artists are probably negatively affected by internet piracy, whereas less popular artists might profit. (4) Are not in favor of government control. (5) Do not wish to enforce current copyright law.
UserUsers of digital content such as consumers (individual), schools, libraries.Consumers: (1) Do not like to be restricted in their usage, advocate fair use, free speech, privacy, and do not like new regulations and laws.? Do not like to be treated as criminals. Schools / Libraries: (1) Privacy and fair use concern them. (2) Both do not wish to enforce current copyright law and are against excessive technological and legal control.
Content IndustryRecording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Content Owners (Disney), Music labels (Sony, BMG).(1) Wish to protect Intellectual Property. (2) Desire government regulation, DRM per federal mandate(s) and private efforts. (3) Anti fair use, believe it gives hackers an excuse to circumvent DRM. (4) Affected negatively by internet piracy. Fight with technological (DRM) and legal solutions (lawsuits). (5) Wish to enforce current copyright law.
GovernmentGovernment departments and bodies which establish and maintain the legal & regulatory environment for other stakeholders.(1) Have to balance various requirements such as piracy, privacy, fair use, copyright on a political, regulatory level. (2) Represent to a certain extent all stakeholders. Are not heavily affected by Internet piracy (possibly loss of tax revenue). (3) Enforcement of copyright related laws is the result of the power exercised by the various stakeholders.
Digital enablersCompanies which support the distribution of digital music to users. Companies from the telecommunications industry, DRM providers, ISPs.(1) Have to balance various interests both of content providers (copyright protection) and those of users (fair use, privacy). (2) Not directly affected by internet piracy. (3) Try to find market-driven solutions, instead of government regulations, by taking into account the concerns of both the content industry and users. (4) Some have been sued by content providers (RIAA vs. Verizon).
Hardware industryHardware companies producing end-devices for users of digital content (e.g. PC, PDA, CD-player, or mobile devices). Companies like Sony, Philips, Nokia, IBM, Ericsson, or HP.(1) Try to balance privacy, fair use with copyright protection. (2) Not directly affected by internet piracy. On the contrary, legal or illegal demand for content increases demand for end-devices. (3) Want market-driven solutions, instead of government regulations.(4) Do not wish to enforce current copyright law.
Software industrySoftware for the production, distribution and consumption of digital content. Companies like Microsoft, Linux, Apple, Real Networks.(1) Have to balance copyright protection and privacy, fair use. (2) Some effort on Trusted Computing under way (Microsoft) with Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB). But others try to remain „open“ (Linux). (3) Some negatively affected by internet piracy, others not. (4) Have also a perspective as artists (creator of content) as well as content industry. (5) Try finding market-driven solutions, instead of government regulations.
Public Interest GroupsPublic Interest Groups support mainly artists and users of content. Organizations such as Net Coalition, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC).(1) Wish to preserve privacy, free speech, fair use, and artist freedom. (2) Are not negatively affected by internet piracy. (3) Are against government regulations and combat technology solutions restricting users and threatening user rights. (4) Do not wish to enforce current copyright law.
RetailerDistributors of digital music such as „traditional“ retailers, e-retailers, web sites, portals. Example. B&N,, Music Net.(1) Have to balance interests of both, content providers (copyright protection) and of users (fair use, privacy). (2) Are negatively affected by internet piracy. (3) Try to find market-driven solutions, instead of government regulations.
Collecting SocietyAct mainly in the name of artists and content providers for the collection of royalties.(1) Wish to protect Intellectual Property. (2) Are negatively affected by internet piracy (e.g., loss of royalties due to illegal streaming of music).

The influencing power of the various stakeholders
Thus far we have identified the various stakeholders in the music industry and their interests in and attitudes towards Digital Rights Management. The next step of Stakeholder Analysis consists of estimating the power to influence the achievement of their interests. However, the evaluation of this power is a very difficult task. By power we mean the influence which stakeholders have to control the decisions that are made, to facilitate their implementation, or to exert influence affecting their rejection. Power is determined by the type of stakeholder, or by his position relative to other stakeholders, mainly in economical and political terms. By economical terms we mean the economic power to have sufficient money to assert their interests whereas by political terms we mean the power to propose and introduce new legislation supporting the usage of DRM technologies. One way to approximate the influencing power of the various stakeholders in economical and political terms is to look at the number of proposed technology bills and which stakeholders are giving financial support to politicians supporting these bills.

A number of technology bills have been drafted and mandated by politicians, mainly in the US. Most of them not only represent the interests of the politician concerned, but more those of their financial backers. By looking at the proposed bills, the initiator and the various financial contributors, we get an impression of which of the stakeholders identified above is exercising his own interests through financing politicians.

Quite a significant number of technology related bills has been proposed recently. Table 2 lists a number of so called DRM related technology bills. Although the list is not complete, it summarizes the most relevant bills related to Digital Rights Management. The last column of Table 2 lists the various stakeholders presented earlier in this article who are financially supporting the initiator of the bill. The information on donations by the various stakeholders to politicians is available at the web site . This information has been taken into account, but is not presented here explicitly for the sake of brevity. We have based our analysis on the top five financial contributors (i.e., industries) for the year 2002, as the figures for 2003 were not always available.

Table 2: Technology bills and supportive stakeholders

Name of initiator (politician)Technology billDescriptionStakeholders financial support
BermanP2P Piracy Prevention Act (PPPPA).This bill would release copyright holders from liability when they take technological steps to stop copyright infringement on P2P systems.Content industry
BoucherThe Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA).Demand exact labeling requirements for usage-impaired "copy-protected" compact discs, as well as several amendments to 1998's infamous Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).Hardware
BrownbackConsumers, Schools, and Libraries Digital Rights Management Awareness Act.The bill acknowledges the important uses of digital technology and databases but insists that, no matter the format, the concept of fair use and protection for consumers, school, and library users has to be acknowledged.Digital Enabler
HollingsConsumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA).The bill would mandate copyright protection technologies in all digital media devices. Content Industry Digital Enabler
LofgrenBenefit Authors without Limiting Advancement or Net Consumer Expectations Act (BALANCE Act).This Bill reforms the DMCA by allowing consumers to bypass technical measures to make fair use of the copyrighted digital works they legally purchase. The bill defends the right of lawful consumers to make back-up copies of their digital works.Hardware
SmithPiracy Deterrence and Education Act.Enhance criminal enforcement of the copyright laws, educate the public about the application of copyright law to the Internet, and clarify the authority to seize unauthorized copyrighted works (authority to seize infringing copyrighted materials at the border).Content Industry Hardware
TauzinThe Broadcast Flag.This foresees a signal embedded in a digital television signal. The system prevents the rebroadcast of digital copies of music and films broadcast on TV or other media.Content Industry
WydenDigital Consumer Right to Know Act.Ensures that consumers of digital information and entertainment content are informed in advance about technological features that may restrict their uses, so that they may factor this information into their purchasing decisions.None (Consumer Groups)

From Table 2, we can see that there are three groups which can be distinguished in the Digital Rights Management field with respect to technology bills. The first group consists of the content industry which is in favor of strong technology solutions and supportive technology bills and has a strong influencing power to push its interests. The second group could be described as a coalition of users and their related public interest groups, the digital enablers and the hardware industry (except Sony and other companies which are in both the content and hardware industry). They have similar interests but different levels of power to achieve their interests. The third group consists of stakeholders either in favor or opposed to DRM but marginally active at the political level (compared to the others, they have less „invested“ in financial terms).

Bottom line
This article has attempted to provide a structured way to understand and classify the various stakeholders in the current Digital Rights Management debate. The proposed conclusion should not be taken as granted, but more as a starting point for further research. This article has several limitations as its results are mainly based on either secondary data like literature reviews or static primary data such as donations to each politician. It lacks in-depths analysis and statistical tests. Nevertheless the conclusion should be valid that the battle over intellectual property protection technologies such as DRMs and the implementation of technology bills will be fought between the content industry on one side and the hardware industry, digital enablers, public interest groups as well as the users on the other side. Notwithstanding further research is required in order to better understand the various stakeholders, their interests and power exercised which all affect the future application of Digital Rights Management. The full paper will be presented at 15th Biennial Conference of the International Telecommunications Society in association with the 31st EARIE Conference, Berlin, September 4-5, 2004

  • The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C., tracks money in politics, and its effect on elections and public policy. It maintains the website

About the author
Marc Fetscherin is a Visiting scholar at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley. His stay is funded by the Swiss National Fund (SNF). He has been analysing a variety of DRM related topics ranging from consumer piracy behaviour to information economics papers. Currently, he is working on his dissertation with the focus on “Digital Rights Management: Consumer Acceptance of Digital Content” and will do his post doc next year at Harvard University. Contact:

Status: first published 30/07/04, included in INDICARE Monitor Vol. 1, No 2, 30 July 2004; licensed under Creative Commons