The term DRM-free, with DRM standing for digital rights management, is commonly used online to refer to content which can be downloaded and transferred by the user. Content which is not DRM-free cannot be downloaded and is only accessible on the particular app or website of the content provider. My question is, what is the antonym of DRM-free? A single word term would be desired as the phrases I considered sound quite clunky and verbose. An example usage would be:

Sadly, Jack could not transfer his music files to his friend as they were _______

  • 7
    The efficient antonym is simply DRM, where DRM stands for 'digital rights managed'.
    – JEL
    Dec 13, 2015 at 22:34
  • 5
    "Not purchased" is the correct antonym, and letting the manufactures know that is the way to make the point moot. Alternately you can use something like "last product on el shelfarino" if you're not into the whole brevity thing. Dec 14, 2015 at 0:39
  • 3
    I'm guessing "victims of an ill conceived anti-sharing paradigm that demonstrably lowers growth and profits in the music industry" is a little too verbose for your taste?
    – corsiKa
    Dec 14, 2015 at 18:56
  • 3
    DRM-infested. It’s “Digital Restrictions Management”, after all.
    – mirabilos
    Dec 15, 2015 at 14:33
  • 1
    DRMed would be the verb, I believe.
    – DA.
    Dec 15, 2015 at 18:29

6 Answers 6


The most common term seems to be DRM protected. Other relatively common terms, in approximate descending order, include DRM locked, DRM enabled, DRMed, and DRM encumbered.

A few notes:

  • DRM protected seems to be relatively neutral, whereas DRM locked, DRMed, and DRM encumbered seem to be slightly pejorative and DRM enabled seems to be slightly, um, ameliorative.
  • DRM enabled is a bit ambiguous, in that it's also used to describe devices that support DRM. But the intended meaning is usually clear from context.
  • As Martin Smith mentions above, DRM can take a number of different forms, and doesn't necessarily prevent downloading.
  • 18
    Among those who would use a term like "DRM-free", "DRM-encumbered" is not so uncommon as an antonym. In contrast, "DRM-protected" has a more positive connotation, by my reading of it. Dec 13, 2015 at 22:29
  • 7
    Among the sites I typically visit (like Arstechnica) the term I often read is DRM-crippled (though, that may be just my brain translating anything DRM-**** into DRM-crippled)
    – slebetman
    Dec 14, 2015 at 7:08
  • 5
    I use "DRM laden" myself.
    – Joe Z.
    Dec 14, 2015 at 12:57
  • 2
    Wouldn’t these words have to be hyphenated (DRM-protected, DRM-enabled, etc.)? (honest question, I’m a non-native speaker)
    – unor
    Dec 14, 2015 at 19:02
  • 3
    @unor: There's a lot of variation in that respect, but the most common recommendation is that such compounds be hyphenated when used attributively (before a noun; e.g., "a DRM-protected file"), but not when used predicatively (elsewhere; e.g., "the file is DRM protected"). (Personally, I tend to hyphenate regardless -- "this file is DRM-protected" -- but I decided that I should follow the standard recommendation here, since I didn't have any specific reason not to.)
    – ruakh
    Dec 14, 2015 at 19:46

"DRM-locked", especially if you're looking for a single word similar to "DRM-free". For example, Kindle books, which are under DRM, will give an error saying "This book is locked by DRM" or something similar when you attempt to edit them with an ebook-managing program.

In fact, "under DRM" also works if there are instances where a single word doesn't sound right.

"DRM-limited" is also an option, but it's less clearly an antonym of "DRM-free" and it's similar enough in form to the better "DRM-locked" that there's probably no need to ever use it.


Copy Protected

I've seen this definition for it:

A class of methods for preventing incompetent pirates from stealing software and legitimate customers from using it. Considered silly.

The New Hacker's Dictionary, third edition, by Eric S. Raymond

  • 3
    The New Hacker's Dictionary is getting rather old, and language changes. I think most people these days will say DRM-something instead. The rest of the quote is spot on, though. Dec 14, 2015 at 10:56
  • 2
    @StigHemmer Sure, but I don't think "copy-protected" sounds dated.
    – Casey
    Dec 15, 2015 at 14:19
  • The term DRM was invented decades after copy protected had been in frequent use. I tend to think of DRM as preventing the copying of passive media like movies and books by using flags ("don't copy this") and digital signatures ("this belongs to alice"), whereas copy protection was physically preventing a piece of software/firmware from running other than on the media it was supplied on (by making the media non-standard so regular OS-supplied copying tools didn't work). I believe the distinction is useful, and still stands.
    – user4683
    Dec 16, 2015 at 8:04


especially in order to bring attention to some cumbersome "feature"

  • I have never heard anyone who is not a journalist use the word "laden".
    – gnasher729
    Dec 14, 2015 at 13:51
  • 2
    I see it in books/fiction, but "laden" is usually used to imply a large number of items, a trying emotional burden, or a great weight. For all its downsides, DRM is at least... not particularly heavy.
    – Yee-Lum
    Dec 14, 2015 at 17:06

How about "DRM-protected"? For example:

DRM-protected titles https://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/electronic-resources/e_book_guides/T-and-F

  • "Protected" implies a modicum of effectiveness and is a misleading term. The only thing being protected is the distributor's ability to arbitrarily restrict the ways their customers can experience the content.
    – Shadur
    Dec 16, 2015 at 6:24

For a more loaded term, there are those who refer to such things as:

Defective By Design

This is admittedly meant to be a non-neutral term, and is more of a phrase, but is a non-uncommon term, especially in certain circles.

  • 2
    Note that the Free Software Foundation's Defective by Design campaign actually uses the term "DRM-encumbered" (which appears in the accepted answer).
    – yoniLavi
    Dec 15, 2015 at 0:52
  • Although this is true, literal signification of defective by design can very easily be used to refer to other concepts such as planned obsolescence or crippleware too so this only fits in limited contexst.
    – Tonepoet
    Dec 27, 2015 at 16:20

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