Digital Rights Management

A while ago, I wrote an editorial (sadly not archived on the web, and not owned by me so I can’t post it here) that detailed how digital rights management in documents might not be such a bad thing. My argument was that content creators of all types, whether they are writers, artists, musicians or anyone, depend on being able to determine how the works they create are used for their livelihood. Thus, an standard for managing rights would not be a bad thing for them, even though it would play into the hands of idiots like the RIAA, at least on the surface.
I went further, in fact, and claimed that having a digital rights management standard that wasn’t owned by content distribution industries like the RIAA would, in fact, allow content creators to harness the power of peer-to-peer networks, and bypass the distributors altogether, while giving themselves some income. I still think that argument works, as long as the standards used are open enough.
I’m not sure yet whether Microsoft’s proposed digital rights standards actually meet this goal, but at least they sound promising. According to a Salon report, they are based on XrML, which has been contributed to MPEG-21, and other “standards” efforts for DRM. If Microsoft adopts it, it will probably become at the very least a de facto standard, if not a truly open one.
The important thing is that no platforms are locked out, and that it reading DRM formats doesn’t depend on using Microsoft software. Whether you’re using a Mac, a handheld, or a smartphone, whatever DRM standard is adopted needs to open enough to be usable on anything, yet secure enough to actually do the job it needs to do.

  • David

    Yes but if the DRM is open – ie either open-source or the encryption is published – then the DRM won’t work as anyone can break it. Thus undermining the entire point of DRM (namely guarding access to a digital object).

    Consequently the only real answer is no DRM as it will fall into the hands of major media corporations and inevitably used as a tool to control culture not free it.

    Artists should be paid, I agree, but the only people who gain from DRM are the distribution and publishing networks aka the multinational media corporations who already screw the artists.