Dale Dietrich
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Sun’s Proposed Open-Source DRM (DReaM) Standard

Categories: DRM AnalysisFair Use/DealingOpen Source

Sun’s DReaM Project Architectural Overview
Sun has worked with Creative Commons to create an open-source, patent-free, royalty-free DRM scheme endorsed by Lawrence Lessig as the lesser of possible DRM evils. DReaM content players/readers would be certified by an independent standards body. DReaM supports fair use by including the means for copyright works to be duplicated for educational purposes, parody, criticism, etc. However, Sun’s ‘fair use’ mechanism is optional for rights holders.

Sources: Sun | Lessig Blog | EFF’s Opposition | Wired | ars technica | The Register I | The Register II (Apr 15, 2006) | Linux Electrons | ZDNet | Yahoo! Finance | eHomeUpgrade | Boing Boing (April 14, 2006)

Dale’s Comment: I am tentatively optimistic about this proposed standard. As regular readers know, my primary concerns with existing DRM schemes are their proprietary nature combined with DMCA-facilitated restrictions on users’ fair use/fair dealing rights.

As Sun is the originator of java, Sun seems well-placed to be the purveyor of a universal, open-source and fair DRM scheme. And, of course, any open-source standard can be scrutinized by the vast open-source community to guard against problems such as the one caused by Sony’s recent root-kit debacle.

This particular scheme tackles the prickly issue of content owners being locked into a particular player/reader or format (eg: Apple’s oxymoronic ‘Fairplay’ scheme). Sun’s proposed open-source DReaM scheme tackles this problem by using a certification process whereby player/reader manufactures can certify their music, video, e-book, video games, etc. player/reader.

Another issue this scheme goes some way to alleviating is the issue of “fair use”. The obvious concern is that Sun’s “fair use” paradigm is currently “optional”. This should be mandatory.

Such a standard may pass muster with France’s proposed new DRM bill. But, it seems at odds with the proposed DRM-free GPL3. If DReaM can ultimately provide a scheme whereby the purchasers of content can: (i) play/access their content on any certified device; (ii) sell, give-away, transfer or otherwise alienate their content; (iii) re-encode their content indefinitely so that their legally purchased content is playable on all future certified devices (ie: not held hostage to the state of the art at the time of purchase); and (iv) otherwise fairly use their purchased content in accordance with evolving fair use/fair dealing standards/jurisprudence; I would heartily endorse such a DReaM scheme. Will the DReaM scheme evolve in such a way that it becomes a DReaM come true? I wouldn’t bank on it!

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