Towards Accountable Anonymity in Digital Rights Management

UoM administered thesis: Master of Philosophy

  • Authors:
  • Mark Jones


Digitalisation, coupled with the distribution channels of the Internet, provides a platform for efficient digital content duplication and distribution. Some individuals have abused this opportunity, duplicating and distributing digital content without the owner's permission. Digital Rights Management, or DRM for short, has emerged as a mechanism to protect the rights of content creators by obstructing illegitimate access to the content; whilst allowing legitimate access. In doing so, DRM systems typically use a consumer's identity in the process of identification and authentication. In this thesis we present and discuss ideas on how a consumer of a DRM system could acquire digital content without disclosing his identity, provided he acts legitimately. To prevent identity theft, we argue that a consumer's identity should not be used for identification purposes. However, if a consumer is found to be acting illegitimately, an authority should be able to determine his identity to hold him accountable. To highlight such a need, we examine existing DRM solutions, critiquing their ability to provide accountable anonymity. In a similar vein, we critique anonymity primitives that we could base such a DRM system on.Most digital contents are not free and therefore must be paid for before access is granted. Payment is therefore an important sub-system. We believe that, as part of preserving consumers' privacy, consumers should be able to complete their payment without disclosing their identity. In line with our accountability requirement however, malicious consumers should have their identity revealed so they can be held accountable. We examine and critique existing payment systems that provide consumers with accountable anonymity.From our discussions, we propose a new anonymous but accountable service in DRM. We call this, A2DRM. We piece together anonymity primitives to provide our consumers with accountable anonymity. We believe that by satisfying both content owners and content consumers, such a system could prove to be successful in the world of digital content distribution. To realise such a system, we utilise pseudonymity, identity escrow, identity certificates, authorisation certificates, digital signatures and rights expression languages.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2011