It looks like the "rights management technology" that Microsoft has been rumored to be building into Office is on the cusp of debuting in Office 2003.
The Windows enthusiasts over at Neowin.Net have the dish on the "Information Rights Management" component of the Office 2003 Beta 2 code that appeared — then disappeared — from the MSDN site this week.
"IRM is a persistent file-level technology from Microsoft that allows the user to specify permission for who can access and use documents or e-mail messages, and helps prevent sensitive information from being printed, forwarded, or copied by unauthorized individuals," according the early Beta 2 text. "Once permission for a document or message has been restricted with this technology, the access and usage restrictions are enforced no matter where the information is."
Microsoft is threading DRM throughout the Office 2003 suite, allowing restrictions to be set on Outlook mail messages, as well as on Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Using "permission templates," document authors can determine restriction policies to be applied to entire categories of documents, according to Microsofts site.
Redmond has been working to include DRM in a slew of its products. Currently, Windows Media Series includes DRM code. But Microsoft has been seeking ways to incorporate DRM in Office, Windows, SharePoint Team Services and Internet Explorer. Microsoft also is working on a DRM server, code-named "Tungsten," which is slated to ship initially as a Windows Server 2003 add-on later this year. The Office IRM documentation says that Microsoft plans to release its rights-management update for IE "later this spring."
Microsoft is requiring users who want the IRM functionality to be running Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Passport and a special Client Access License (CAL). Microsoft is offering Office Beta 2 customers who do not have Windows Server 2003 a free, hosted version of IRM to test.
Separately, Microsoft is beta testing another product it is calling a "Windows Rights Management client. The company posted Beta 2 of the client to its Web site on February 11, as first reported by Steven Bink on his Web site.
A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to talk details about the Windows Rights Client, but did say that Microsofts DRM strategy encompassed "an application layer, a server layer and client components, as well."