CBDTPA Legislation Should Be Opposed

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-05-06 Print this article Print

What's wrong with CBDTPA is that it imposes a single business model on an entire industry that's barely getting started.

When people argue about the prospect of mandatory digital rights management technologies, like those proposed in Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (S.2048), the dispute typically turns on the conflict between the rights of content creators and the rights of free speech. But thats not the right ground on which to take sides for or against the bill. No matter what your feelings about that clash of legitimate ideals, you should still oppose this legislation.

Whats wrong with CBDTPA is that it imposes a single business model on an entire industry thats barely getting started. "Five or 10 years from now, well see a digital content marketplace bigger than anyone could say today without being laughed at—but only if we dont restrict it," said Michael Miron, CEO of ContentGuard, a leading developer of digital rights management technology, when we spoke late last month. "The notion that the private sector is at an impasse, and that government has to step in, is simply wrong."

Miron anticipates many models of content distribution, guided by industry-standard rights management languages. Toward that end, ContentGuard has contributed its Extensible Rights Markup Language, or XRML, to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

"You need a way to express the rights, and you need a trust model that tells you youre granting rights to someone whos trustworthy," said Miron.

Different situations, said Miron, call for different balance points between protection of content and convenience of use. "The trust model for consumer delivery of an e-book or MP3 file will be different from the one you need for a scientist to download military secrets," he said.

CBDTPA, said Miron, effectively defines a rights language that can only say one thing—"You can read"—and an equally narrow trust model, "You must be a trustworthy device." It admits no gradations along any spectrum of privileges or requirements. Its hard enough to devise a rights management scheme that wont be quickly broken; lets not compound the problem by pretending that CBDTPA is the one size that will fit all.

Send your bill of digital rights to peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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