RealTime IT News

DReaM: Royalty-Free, Open Source DRM

Sun Microsystems is jumping into digital rights management with the launch of an open source version not dependent on devices.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's president and COO, announced the launch of the Open Media Commons' DRM/everywhere (DReaM) project in order to kick off the Progress & Freedom Foundation's annual summit in Aspen, Colo.

The intent of the project is to create a DRM standard that's royalty-free and interoperable with other DRM technologies, similar to Sun's work with the Liberty Alliance, an open community for the federated identity industry.

The DRM technology created will be licensed under a Creative Commons-based license, according to a statement by the Progress & Freedom Foundation.

The company is making the initial contributions to the project by donating Sun Streaming Server and Java Stream Assembly for streaming video and audio content; and DRM-OPERA, an interoperable DRM architecture.

DRM is a hot commodity for copyright holders and the businesses who create DRM technology. JupiterResearch, a corporate cousin of internetnews.com, estimated last year that the space is expected to generate revenues of $274 million by 2008.

While the entertainment industry is hot on the technology, mainly to protect digital music and movie files as they criss-cross the Internet, the market has so far been dominated by two key DRM providers: Microsoft and Apple .

Each has its own proprietary method for protecting media files. Microsoft offers Janus DRM technology for Windows Media Player-enabled devices and desktops and Apple has FairPlay DRM.

Devices for listening to protected content, however, usually come with only one DRM schema, a fact that's created headaches for consumers and competitors alike. Efforts to get devices with interoperable DRM specifications have been contested.

RealNetworks raised the hackles of Apple executives with the launch of its Harmony DRM translation software last year, which Apple considers a reverse-engineered hack of its technology.

The DRM issues have reached the courts and the U.S. Congress. In January Apple was hit with a 10-count lawsuit that claimed the iPod manufacturer broke the law when it altered the advanced audio codec (AAC) to incorporate the Fairplay DRM technology.

Meanwhile, Congress has stepped into the act. In April, lawmakers held hearings to discuss mandating interoperability standards between competing music platforms.

Device makers have taken a stab at creating DRM interoperability. Samsung Electronics, Royal Philips Electronics Panasonic and DRM vendor Intertrust launched the Marlin Joint Development Association (JDA) in January.

The goal of the group is to develop a software toolkit that lets manufacturers provide interoperability between competing DRM standards on their devices.