DRM

CC on Seybold DRM Panel

Mike Linksvayer, August 17th, 2004

I’m speaking on a DRM Roundtable 10:30AM tomorrow at Seybold San Francisco. The panel will address current and future trends in Digital Rights Management (or the pejorative: Digital Restrictions Management).

We have two FAQs addressing Creative Commons and DRM, reproduced below:

Is Creative Commons involved in digital rights management (DRM)?

No; we prefer to describe the technical aspect of our work as digital rights description. Whereas digital rights management tools try to prevent certain uses of copyright works and restrict your rights, we’re trying to promote certain uses and grant you rights. Instead of having software say, “No, you cannot modify this file,” we want it to say something more like “The author will let you modify this file, but in return, give her credit.”

While the tools are similar, our goals are different. Instead of using one of the many DRM formats, we’ve chosen to go with the W3C’s RDF/XML format. Instead of saying “We’re not placing these restrictions,” we say “We grant you these permissions,” so that search engines and other applications can easily find generously licensed works and sort them.

A physical analogy may be helpful. It’s DRM’s job to put up signs that say “No Trespassing.” It would seem silly to take those signs and change them to say “Yes Trespassing,” which is what using a DRM format to express our licenses would be like. Instead, we’re building new signs that say “Welcome, Please Come In,” and that use different colors and designs to convey their different messages.

We’re leaving “enforcement” to the law, social norms, and the good faith of the participants. Our tools act as informative aids, not instruments of control. We want to help copyright holders notify others of their obligations and freedoms, and to help everyone find places on the Internet where creative reuses are encouraged.

What happens if someone tries to protect a CC-licensed work with digital rights management (DRM) tools?

If a person uses DRM tools to restrict any of the rights granted in the license, that person violates the license. All of our licenses prohibit licensees from “distributing the Work with any technological measures that control access or use of the Work in a manner inconsistent with the terms of this License Agreement.”

For those not lucky enough to attend the panel, in addition to covering the FAQ points above I will give examples for positive use cases of Digital Rights Description in the areas of

  • Discovery
  • Expression
  • Commerce
  • Resource Management

and draw some broad distinctions between DRM and DRD:

  • Copy/Use promotion vs. Copy/Use protection
  • Encourage fans vs. Discourage casual pirates
  • Resource management vs. Customer management
  • Web content model vs. 20th century content model
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