The evolution and consequences of digital rights management in relation to online music streaming

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Streaming services now provide the dominant way in which music is distributed and consumed online. Digital rights management (DRM) lies at the heart of this trend and has evolved alongside a movement from copy-based to streaming-based consumption. This shift poses a number of new and unique issues. Music streaming services have changed the nature of the product offered, with musical content becoming de-bundled and reduced to a series of permissions covered by DRM and associated licences, leaving users trapped in a permission-based system. This may create tension with copyright law principles regarding personal ownership and exhaustion of rights in relation to secondary markets, but through analysing relevant US and European case law it can be demonstrated that there is little, if any, legal opportunity for digital secondary markets to emerge. There are also further specific consequences which may affect artists relating to musical diversity and the composition of popular music and, also, consequences regarding the changing nature of the Internet itself. In this context copyright remains centrally important, but only in establishing the initial proprietary rights that enable subsequent DRM and licence-based online exploitation, indicative of a re-establishment of record industry power that is now allied to streaming platforms.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalLegal Studies
Early online date10 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2021


  • Copyright
  • Digital rights management
  • Intellectual property
  • Music
  • Streaming

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