Sun Unveils Plans for Open-Source DRM Project

Sun Microsystems has unveiled an open-source community project to develop a royalty-free digital rights management (DRM) standard.

Dubbed Open Media Commons, Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz presented the initiative during his keynote speech to leading policymakers, media, telecommunications and technology executives at the Progress and Freedom Foundation Aspen Summit.

To further the foundation’s goal, Schwartz called for immediate cross-industry collaboration in developing an open, safe and business-friendly approach to the free creation, duplication and distribution of digital content.

“We are entering the Participation Age — an age where individuals are creating and supplying the news as much as they are consuming it. Mobile phones play music and take pictures, high-quality video is delivered to almost any device on earth and legitimate global P2P networks are being created that will transform the way we live,” said Schwartz.

Exploding Demand

Schwartz said the demand for new network services is exploding. He sees an incredible economic value waiting to be tapped, but warns that the industry must not allow progress to be stifled by clumsy, self-defeating Internet tollgates in the form of a monolithic, closed digital rights management system.

“The issue at hand is fair compensation without loss of fair use,” Schwartz said. “The Open Media Commons is committed to creating an open networkgrowth engine, all the while continuing to protect intellectual property in a manner that respects customer privacy, honors honest uses of media andencourages participation and innovation.”

Laying the foundation for the Open Media Commons initiative, Sun will immediately share the entirety of its internal Sun Labs program Project DReaM (DRM/everywhere available) with the community under the OSI-approved Common Development and Distribution License.

“We fundamentally believe that a federated DRM solution must be built by the community, for the community,” Schwartz said. “And I urge those across the industry, be they in front of a development workstation or in an executive suite or walking the halls of Congress, to get involved in the debate before the goals of a few impede the possibility of long-term, sustained economic growth for everyone.”

A Wake-Up Call

Digital Inside Media analyst Phil Leigh told LinuxInsider that there will ultimately be a standard, and the lack of a unified standard is slowing down the adoption of digital music and movies. But similar to the VHS versus Betamax saga, competition will continue until there is a clear winner.

“Apple thinks it can win all the marbles, so they won’t agree to share anything. Microsoft seems to think the same way,” Leigh said. “Each is hoping the media companies and the consumers will exert enough pressure to see to it that an open standard gets adopted. But right now that’s a long shot.”

Sun recognizes that media companies, consumers and device manufacturers are frustrated, he said, and is attempting to address that frustration in hopes of benefiting by authoring the ultimate standard.

Seeing Gold

However, Microsoft is accustomed to becoming the de facto standard — and Apple now sees the opportunity to replicate in the DRM space what Microsoft did with the computer operating system.

“Apple is not going to let an opportunity like this pass by,” Leigh said. “Until you go to the gym and you see something else aside from iPod, not much is going to change.”

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