Thursday, March 02, 2006

imho DRM6


Found content:

My take:

DRM is another name for heavyweight (or heavy, in the Jack Palance sense of the term) content security, policy, trust, and key management infrastructure that will inevitably be embedded everywhere. It’s the “inevitably” and “everywhere” parts of the DRM dynamic that freak out so many people. The issue is not so much whether some proprietary (Microsoft, Sony, etc.) or standards-based brand of DRM (and federated IdM and access management) infrastructure will provide that inevitably everywhere infrastructure (IEI—an all-long-vowel acronym I just coined to sound like what the skull-boy in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is vocalizing).

Some DRM (good and/or bad) IEI will prevail (not going to wager what/when/how, but it’s going to happen). The reason why is because the need for discretionary publisher-driven rights management is perennial and universal, across all platforms, applications, and code/content sources/channels. When a need is this ubiquitous for infrastructure this fundamental, industry forces will push everyone everywhere toward a common reference architecture, which includes general convergence on common functional models, standards, and (increasingly) codebases.

And nothing says IEI and ubiquitous codebases these days better than open source (a la Linux, Apache, etc.), so it’s no surprise that there are several DRM open-source software development projects underway, as the referenced article points out. SunLabs has its DReaM project, and some related projects: Java Stream Assembly and DRM Opera (perhaps it’ll come out with a PsychoDRMa, or Sturm-und-DRM codebase as well).

I haven’t delved into the details of these projects, but I’m encouraged by what someone at SunLabs said to the reporter who wrote the article: “[Glenn Edens, a senior vice president of communications media and entertainment at Sun and director of Sun Labs] sees a bright future for DRM, and said that uses range from personalized management to business uses to medical records to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Edens hopes that his company’s open DRM initiative, embodied in DReaM, spreads to the entertainment industry at large, replacing outdated and invasive systems like the one Sony used….’We’ve started a very fruitful dialog with the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation],’ [said Edens]. ‘We have been working on a white paper to describe a possible solution to the fair-use issues. The hard question is: ‘How can you have an access and authentication system that also respects fair use?’”

That is exactly the right question to be asking. DRM isn’t evil, any more than password-protected access controls on traditional document management systems are evil. Get over it. And start to investigate how the emerging DRM IEI can be developed with the flexibility to allow [code and/or content] publishers to protect their rights while also allowing [code and/or content] consumers to protect their equally valid rights to those same digital resources.

What’s a fair balance of rights to code/content among publishers and consumers? What’s “fair use”? How can a DRM IEI allow publishers and consumers to continually negotiate the tricky fine line of “fair use,” a concept that will continue to evolve legally and culturally, and will continue to differ, everywhere and always, on a case-by-case basis?