The Internet created a shift in how we distribute and share personal and business information. With this comes a new set of business, social and legal issues.
These issues are especially complex because, while the Internet has no global borders, social and legal requirements differ across the world.
Nowhere are these challenges and complexities more apparent than in the commercial distribution of digital content. Napster proved digital works can be easily copied and redistributed. The ensuing litigation underscored the fact that content owners won't hesitate to protect their copyrights.
The reaction from consumer advocates and Web pundits was strong, fueled by expectations that everything on the Internet should be discounted, if not completely free of charge.
Battles between content owners and other file sharing services (such as Kazaa) continue, with no end in sight. These legal skirmishes put digital rights management (DRM) technology in the spotlight.
DRM is designed to control digital content. It comprises standards and technologies that allow digital content to be distributed, while keeping it protected, managed and tracked.
DRM attempts to answer basic questions about the public's digital content rights. It also provides the technological means to offer and enforce these rights, such as:
• What is the content?
• Are you authorized to give the content to me?
• Is the content authentic (what it claims to be)?
• What rights do I have to the content?
• What conditions must I meet to be granted those rights?
DRM technology was initially met with great anticipation. The publishing and IT (information technology) industries hoped DRM was the key to distributing digital content, while maintaining ownership and control.
This was optimistic at best, short sighted at worst. The dramatic rise of Napster, the ongoing battle against Kazaa, and the content piracy both fostered has spread fear throughout the publishing industry.