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Old 04-05-2006, 06:05 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Open DRM - DReaM or Nightmare?

Sun has announced a project called the "Open Media Commons initiative" to create an open source DRM technology that does not require royalties. They also released their early work from Project DReaM (DRM everywhere available).

Is open source DRM worthy of the "DReaM" name? On the one hand, it could bring universal compatibility across all devices, allowing you to have the appropriate rights to all your content regardless of what device it's on. On the other hand it could be a way for content providers to invade and control your use of their content more than ever.

As DRM technology, it will never approach the compatibility we have now with mp3, no matter how successful. Because regardless of how compatible devices and software becomes, "your" content will still depend on the format. And it's a big challenge for it to become universally accessible on all devices, because that's not something that happens automatically because it's open source or because it comes from Sun. It must be wildly successful to be adopted and supported across the board.

And even if wildly successful, there may be incentive for content owners to push device makers to use alternate DRM technologies anyway, because less compatibility may allow them to sell and re-sell content every time you get a new device, which would not happen with device independent DRM solutions.

On the other hand, even if it's not perfect, industry-wide popularity of DReaM might sure beat the proprietary and device-specific solutions that we may otherwise end up with as the alternative.

It's a tough topic, and we certainly don't have many good answers yet. Trust me, there are a lot of sharp minds working on it. Unfortunately, there's big money at stake, so they might not all have the consumer's best interests at heart.

So we fall back on the position that is so inevitable on many future technology issues - "Time will tell."

Related Links...
* Sun Announces Open-Source DRM Project
* Do we need an open source DRM?
* Reasons to Love Open-Source DRM
* DRM - a hot topic around the web
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Old 04-06-2006, 11:20 AM   #2
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The unstated purpose of proprietary DRM methods is customer lock-in. If it weren't, the proposed French law requiring vendors make their DRM interop would not have drawn as much criticism.

An open-source, royalty-free, widely deployed DRM mechanism is contrary to this goal.
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Old 04-06-2006, 05:26 PM   #3
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I would favor Open DRM to any other kind of DRM. Of course, no DRM = best, but try to tell this to the music industry, the movie industry, the book publishing industry, and basically any other industry that holds some kind of intellectual property rights.
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