Look, Don't Touch
CYA Technologies, Inc, provider of business continuity and secure collaboration software solutions, takes a different approach to DRM: Users share the information, not the files. Put simply, the information stays in the repository.
"We designed our software opposite of the rest of the industry. Most of the DRM technology focuses at the desktop level and we believe that—if someone wants to hack the system—the desktop can never be a secure environment unless the information never lands there," explains Elaine Price, the company's CEO and cofounder. "With our technology you can see [the information], but you can't touch it. You can collaborate back and forth, but we have total control over the information to the point that we can dynamically retract the right to access, if the customer requires."
While mobile isn't currently the top priority on the CYA product roadmap, Price says the technology can "easily support a wireless environment when the customer requires this capability." In a scenario involving a BlackBerry device, for example, the user would receive a link via the BlackBerry that would allow the user to view the content on that device or any other. "We pass the key to the user via email, so we invite the user to come to us and access the information in our repository," Price explains. "As long as the user has email and is online we can reach him."
If the user requires the information and not a copy, then CYA's next software release will allow this and warn users when their information is outside the security of the repository.
Bayer Healthcare AG, a division of Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical company based in Leverkusen, is currently testing E-DRM solutions, including the technology provided by CYA. "DRM solutions can allow us to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of our internal data and protect our intellectual property position, particularly in the exchanges that take place between lawyers as they iron out the details of a contract," explains Lars Johannsen at Bayer HealthCare AG.
While Bayer Healthcare Research and Development is not currently "pursuing a strategy to becoming a mobile enterprise," Johannsen says mobility increasingly plays a role in business scenarios. "We don't currently provide options for staff to pull content from our repositories with mobile devices, but the technology would allow remote workers to access information from their laptops or PDAs from the external sites such as airports." Mobility, he adds, will be an important requirement for DRM solutions moving forward.
Do You Want To Know A Secret?
While companies fine-tune their DRM technology and solutions to meet the user demand for anywhere, anytime, and any-device access, Cory Doctorow, a science fiction writer and a vocal member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit membership organization that works to uphold civil liberties interests in technology and standards, argues that all DRM systems are ultimately bad for business—and society. He distrusts E-DRM solutions and their promise to maintain the integrity of content. "DRM systems are only as good as the people who use them," he says. "The idea that we can substitute technology for accountability is patently wrong." While it might give patients a secure feeling to know legislation such as HIPPA restricts hospitals from improper use of patient records, no technology can make doctors and nurses honest. "The fact that medical personnel can't forward information doesn't say whether your secret is safe with them," he says. "DRM doesn't make your information secure—only accountability and regulation can accomplish that."
He further points out that E-DRM systems implemented to enforce compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, might actually be tools in the construct of future cover-ups. "Since no E-DRM solution can stop the leaking of information, the only plausible scenario for DRM here would be to hide malfeasances, not prevent them."
Doctorow's opinion of the business value of DRM in mobile entertainment is equally low. For one, in all DRM scenarios the "attacker is also the recipient," Doctorow explains. "At the end of the day, all DRM systems share a common vulnerability: they provide their attackers with ciphertext, the cipher and the key. At this point, no secret is a secret anymore."
It's also "absurd" to seek content owner consensus on DRM systems in the first place, he argues. "We've never cared that advances in devices such as television and radio evoke a panic response in entertainment companies. Now we worry about providing entertainment companies with assurances that their content isn't being used against their wishes."
And who defines what's in the interest of content companies? Content companies. Doctorow posits: "If you buy an alarm clock that plays CDs, would someone complain that you are pirating a provider's alarm tone business? Of course not. So why do we go to the media companies and ask them before we create features for our mobile phones?" Ironically, even if the industry does succeed in meeting requirements for DRM systems, many users won't buy them. "The business model is flawed," Doctorow says.
The arguments in favor of DRM remind him of the get-rich-quick plan presented by the underwear-stealing gnomes in the popular animated series South Park: In one episode, gnomes that steal underwear appear in South Park. When confronted with their crime, they reveal they have a three-step plan to make money from the underwear. One: steal the underwear, two: (silence), and three: get rich. "It's the same way in the mobile space," Doctorow muses. "One: equip all devices with DRM controls and feud about interoperability, two: (silence), and three: content providers get rich." There's no silver bullet solution for DRM, he says and claims there ever will be are wishful thinking.
Sidebar: DRM's Hidden Value
Digital watermarking is not only a means to prevent copyright infringement. In the mobile space it is gaining traction as a technology to link content and commerce together.
Camera phones—mobile devices that now outnumber cameras worldwide in sales—can "read" a digital watermark from any printed material. "The user can use a mobile to navigate all the information connected to a particular piece of content," explains Ken Levy, director of technology and market development at Digimarc Corp., a provider of secure media solutions. But it goes well beyond that, he says. With Digimarc's technology, companies can invisibly enable any printed content with a link, creating a one-click digital gateway to ecommerce, he says. To develop applications based on this technology, Digimarc is working with companies in the mobile space including Intel.
In the case of a movie poster, for example, the digital watermark can link a mobile phone user with movie times, trivia quizzes, and even a mobile video trailer of the film. And, if users want, they can also buy movie tickets, t-shirts and even a CD of the soundtrack. "The benefits of digital watermarking go beyond content protection. We can help deliver brands gains in value and customer loyalty."
Digimarc's digital watermarking technology provides a persistent digital identity for various media content and supports media rights management applications. The company also provides detection with forensic tracking that allows content companies to secure what Levy calls the "analog hole." Watermarking is woven into the fabric of the content. Because it survives digital to analog conversions, it is user friendly, Levy says. "Legacy devices work. You can watch a DVD copy on a VCR. Our approach doesn't stop people from using content, it just makes sure the content owners are properly paid."
Sidebar: Companies Featured in this Article
Authentica, Inc. www.authentica.com
Beep Science www.beepscience.no
CYA Technologies www.cya.com
Digimarc Corp. www.digimarc.com
Electronic Frontier Foundation www.eff.org
Forrester Research www.forrester.com
Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) www.openmobile alliance.org
Secure Digital Container (SDC) www.digicont.ch