RealTime IT News

Adobe's DRM Push

By David Ian Miller

Is Adobe Systems deliberately stomping on Microsoft's technological toes or just breaking into the profitable digital rights management marketplace?

The company says neither. Its recent purchase of a partner's digital rights management technology is simply business as usual.

The newest addition to Adobe's product line-up is Navisware's FileLine Digital Rights Management software, which the company purchased for an undisclosed amount in a deal announced Monday.

Adobe plans to integrate FileLine into its LiveCycle Document Services software, which manages digital rights for Acrobat.

"We have been in the digital rights management world for 10 years now and have been adding new capabilities along the way," said John Landwehr, director of security solutions and strategy for Adobe.

FileLine, used with LifeCycle, will allow companies to control how, when and by whom documents can be used. It also lets them grant or deny access to protected files as circumstances dictate.

Any changes in access rights will be immediately applied to all copies of the document, no matter where those copies currently reside, via an encryption technology that Navisware describes as "document wrapper technology." Files remain encrypted even after being accessed.

The solution also includes an audit log that keeps track of who accesses documents and reveals any unauthorized usage or disclosures. And version control is built in to ensure that outdated documents aren't mistakenly distributed or used.

"Last year we shipped [LiveCycle] Policy Server as a way to provide more enterprise capabilities to rights management," said Landwehr.

"We've been delivering those capabilities via PDF through LifeCycle, but organizations wanted to be able to protect documents as soon as first words hit the page, upstream of the PDF, and they wanted to be able to do this with popular formats such as MS Office and CAD."

Microsoft provides limited DRM features for documents and PDF support in the most recent version of Office and reportedly plans to include digital document management and advanced rights control abilities in its next-generation Vista operating system, due out this year.

Adobe's increasing interest in digital rights management might be seen as a preemptive strike against Vista, a strategy that could be strengthened by Adobe's purchase of Web design application specialist Macromedia in April 2005.

Landwehr said Adobe's customers have become more interested in enterprise digital rights management in recent years.

This is no surprise, as business deals are increasingly conducted digitally. Companies are understandably concerned about protecting confidential information about their assets, as well as the personal information of their customers and employees.

Outsourcing complicates the rights management and privacy protection issue; it's difficult to know who has your data and what they might be doing with it.

And government regulations, such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley, require many companies to adhere to strict guidelines regarding how data should be stored, accessed and retrieved.

Adobe plans to integrate FileLine into LiveCycle Document Services by the end of 2006. LiveCycle Document Services starts at $65,000 per server. Adobe has not yet disclosed pricing for the FileLine product.