W3C | Submissions

Team Comment on the XMCL Submission

W3C is pleased to receive the XMCL submission from RealNetworks, Inc. This submission describes an XML language to express access- and usage-controls over a certain object containing content.

The language is designed to make the same content work while using different enforcement engines, so it is ultimately describing common functionality for systems enforcing usage-permissions on content. The usages allowed would be described using XMCL while the enforcement of those descriptions will depend on each non-standard enforcement-system. While XMCL's focus is on expressing the hooks for different enforcement-engines

XMCL, despite some exceptions, is not describing the rights on a certain object but expresses allowed usages.

Rights and usage control might differ significantly. This creates the risks of over/understatements from the rights-holder, but it is the only way of tackling the issue with respect to the variety of national legal frameworks present in the Web. One can immediately see that tensions between usage-permissions and rights from a certain national law can occur. As P3P did, this is solved by being able to express the national preferences without restricting the expression power of the language to one national set of rules.

XMCL includes a <ds:keyinfo> from the XML Signature specification to transport information about a cryptographic key to unlock the content. It also contains a mechanism to include Dublin Core statements in RDF. This allows more transparency and a better connection to rightsholders and authors. It will provide a basis for the application of Semantic Web Tools for a new class of search and classification experiences on valuable digital content. It will make it easier for all parties involved to respect rights from an author as he can be identified and asked easily.

In fact, DRM has the potential to bring more content to the web if people in possession of copies are aware of the rights attached to it. But the use and development of DRM technologies is controversial on the web and a DRM-Specification has to address that. W3C held a Workshop on DRM in January 2001. The Workshop identified further risks including the risk for privacy, the issue of archiving our knowledge and creations for future generations, the grey areas in copyright being swamped out, etc. DRM in general is not a panacea for the actual problems experienced in the clash of new technology with old copyright business paradigms.

The authors of XMCL have seen those risks and propose to hand over the resolving of the issues raised by W3C's DRM-Workshop to a future W3C-Activity. As we can see, XMCL is only a first step. Isolated use of this language without resolving the aforementioned issues might lead to undesired consequences. We don't know the exact impact of those issues for our future.

The challenge remains:

It will remain difficult to maintain the old business-models of the creative industry in conjunction with the Web. On the other hand, the goal of copyright remains valid: Create an incentive for creators to create, for investors to invest, to encourage a richer and more diverse cultural activity by giving the creator a just reward for the creation. It will need new technology and new business models -harmonized which each other- to maintain that goal. The Web had an impact on the balanced peace in this area. A new balance of interests remains to be found and DRM will be a part of that balance.

New technologies are needed to address a variety of issues around copyright and the Web. Electronic copies of a digital (intangible) item have no age: one can't distinguish between the original and the copy. The cost of copying has disappeared, which changes the whole landscape for the content industry. DRM and metadata can provide the necessary framework for a new balance and peace in the content arena.

Consequently, this submission is a valuable attempt to provide input for a future DRM-Activity.

There are many Activities around DRM in different Standards bodies and Consortia around the world. MPEG is integrating DRM into MPEG-4, MPEG-7 and MPEG-21, CEN/ISSS has a Steering Group around DRM. OASIS just opened a Technical Committee on DRM to create a rights-language and Content-guard provided XrML as a contribution. None of the above mentioned initiatives federate all the stakeholders and interested parties around one table. The library community, new initiatives like the Creative Commons, like Project Gutenberg or consumer-protection associations offer welcome user perspectives too often missing from the technical design discussions of rights management systems. During the DRM-Workshop stakeholders asked W3C to help coordinate this broad variety of initiatives. This was partly done with the Workshop and the www-drm mailing-list

DRM technologies are broadly covered by patents. This might affect the widespread use of such technology outside the very commercial sectors of the Web. Oasis' work is based on XrML which is only available on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. If the Activity will be chartered to produce a specification implementable under the developing W3C royalty-free licensing terms we expect this to be also time- and resource-consuming.

Next Steps

The submission will be brought to the attention of DRM-public mailing-list, W3C's AC and the community at large.

A disucssion over DRM in W3C was provided by the DRM-Workshop. It showed, that the starting of a DRM Activity within W3C would require the investment for a considerable amount of resources, both, for the policy side as for the technical side of the overall task.

Such an Activity would also require the participation from and liaison-work with public interest representation like Creative Commons or the Library Community.

Feedback on this technology is encouraged on the www-drm mailing list (public archive). To send mail to this list you must first subscribe by sending an email message to www-drm-request@w3.org with the word subscribe in the subject line (include the word unsubscribe if you want to unsubscribe from the list).

Disclaimer: Placing a Submission on a Working Group/Interest Group agenda does not imply endorsement by either the W3C Staff or the participants of the Working Group/Interest Group, nor does it guarantee that the Working Group/Interest Group will agree to take any specific action on a Submission.

Rigo Wenning
Activity Lead
$Date: 2002/09/19 20:24:22 $