A visual iconography for DRM

 by Martin Belam, 31 December 2007

In a recent BBC News article Paul Garland, head of intellectual property litigation at law firm Kemp Little, said about DRM:

"The biggest problem is that it is actually quite difficult as a consumer when downloading content to know what you are able to do with it.

If DRM is going to survive, there needs to be much greater effort to tell purchasers what they can or can't do with it."

It is a problem I have struggled with myself, when laying out the information architecture of pages for music sales applications. How do you convey to the user in advance the digital rights management regime associated with their upcoming purchase, without getting in the way of the transaction, or bombarding them with legalese?

So, perhaps the industry needs to agree a standard set of icons to convey what will happen with your digital music, you know, like the ones that used to be in the back of CD booklets saying don't pour Benzine on this disc, or allow it to be used in a Tomorrow's World experiment.

Here is my initial stab at some of the icons that might be considered.

Stop pirates icon

Our DRM systems will stop you being a pirate. Honest.
Install icon

Download requires the continuous install of upgrades, patches, and licences to play.

Files will frequently require you to go online to re-verify your purchase.
Dialogue box icon

Playing these files will bombard you with OS system messages about your DRM protection.

We will install spyware, malware and other tracking software onto your computer without asking you.
Self destruct icon

Files will sell-destruct after n days.
Puff of smoke icon

Content will disappear and cease to play if we go bankrupt. Or decide to stop supporting this format.
Locked content icon

Content is locked to your existing mobile phone contract.

We'll add DRM to your own DIY home-made content
Linux user icon

Linux users need not apply.
We will track you icon

RFID enabled hardware will track and broadcast your geo-location and playlists.

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