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OASIS Sets Sights on XML for DRM

OASIS -- a group responsible for crafting XML interoperability standards -- revealed the latest in its flood of technical commmittees formed over the last several months to mesh the Extensible Markup Language with other technologies. Tuesday the Boston-based said it has targeted the ballyhooed arena of digital rights management (DRM).

OASIS said its Rights Language Technical Committee, which currently includes such DRM players as Microsoft Corp. and VeriSign Inc. , will work on an XML language standard for the DRM sector. Digital rights management is a type of server software written to ensure secure distribution, and staunch illegal dissemmination of content that is supposed to be paid for over the Web.

The importance of DRM was highlighted almost three years ago when the wildly popular Napster software was used by millions of music lovers to swap song files. The ensuing legal battles continue, to this day, playing out in the California court system. While DRM technologies promise protection it is universally believed by security and encryption experts that any software created by man can be violated by man. DRM developers' Holy Grail, it would seem, is to come as close to a perfect protection formula as possible.

Seeing as how Web services, viewed by some as the ultimate in machine-to-machine communication that lets multiple computers work together to complete tasks, has not yet reached its zenith, OASIS figured it was as good a time as any to lay an XML-driven standard down for a field as important as DRM.

The fact that Microsoft and VeriSign are endorsing the standard is testament to its importance. Those two companies have linked arms on Web services architecture since the year 2000 and continue to do so, as VeriSign in July 2001 became an authentication provider for the much-talked-about .NET initiative.

As for the new OASIS committee, the members will devise a universal method for specifying and managing rights for a wide variety of business models, "expressing both simple and complex rights and promoting interoperability between systems regardless of platform, media type or format."

The announcement met with the approval of IDC contributing analyst Josh Duhl, who said: "The use of DRM technologies for the distribution of content and services holds great potential, and putting DRM-related standards in place is essential for the success of DRM," said Duhl. "The contribution of XrML to OASIS is an important step in establishing a standard rights language for DRM. "

Major firms agree. Joining Microsoft and VeriSign as members are Hewlett-Packard Co. , Reuters and other OASIS members, but the company with the most influence within the new rights management committee is ContentGuard, which uses an eXtensible rights Markup Language (XrML) created in Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center that it intends to submit as a starting point for this work. XrML can be used in content-centric and service-based business models. Moreover, ContentGuard's Hari Reddy is chair of the OASIS Rights Language Technical Committee.