W3C | Submissions

Team Comment on the ODRL Submission

W3C is pleased to receive the ODRL Submission from IPR Systems. ODRL is a well-known and very powerful language/protocol in the DRM Arena. It provides an XML-language for the expression of usages but also implements significant parts of the <indecs>-model, which allows to cover also use, selling and transfer of intangible and tangible goods. The <indecs>-model and thus ODRL also addresses re-use of works, which is a feature that goes far beyond the usual question of accessing some protected content. This allows rights expressions to accompany a certain work even in its iterations. It also allows the use of ODRL for the management of tangible goods (Assets) like Books by providing the appropriate metadata - framework. ODRL has a very broad scope. It is a nearly complete metadata-framework for authors and rightsholders which goes far beyond the simple expression of access rules.

The submission gives examples showing how to combine ODRL with other languages such as Dublin Core and OpenEbook, thus ODRL can combined with any XML language and enrich the metadata about permissions and usages linked to the object. As it can be combined with any XML, the Submission also shows how RDF-based languages like Dublin Core can be mixed in and how this can be integrated into the Semantic Web. At W3C's Workshop on DRM, which was co-chaired by the submitter, IPR-Systems asked for an overall framework-solution to the DRM-metadata issue using semantic web technologies. The submission of ODRL can be seen as a first step.

ODRL also contains a profile to use and integrate digital signatures and encryption by using XML Signature and XML Encryption.

One of the main issues of DRM is addressing an object. Consequently, ODRL depends on the use of unique identification of assets and parties. This raises a privacy concern. To fulfill the requirement of having a unique ID, the ODRL Specification as submitted uses DOI's (Digital Object Identifiers) for the examples. The ODRL specification says The general description of the Party and Asset entities is outside the scope of ODRL. What is in scope is that these entities must be referenced by using a Uniform Resource Identifier [URI. Thus, ODRL references are not constrained to a specific subset of URIs.

Similar to XMCL, ODRL is not a language to describe rights in a legal sense. ODRL makes the assumption of an existing legal right and describes how the right or parts thereof are transferred to third parties and beyond, which constraints and permissions are given to the third party. So ODRL does less talk about rights and more about agreements and permitted usages. Those agreements are not negotiated but given by the Rights-Holder. There is no negotiation protocol. But it is not clear either that such a negotiation protocol would be desirable as it adds complexity to an already complex matter.

In ODRL the distinction between rights and usages becomes visible when it comes to the exceptions from copyright. Those exceptions, like fair use in the common-law countries and private use in the Droit d'Auteur countries are not addressed in ODRL. This situation would have to be remedied if W3C were to charter a working group for a DRM-language based on ODRL and XMCL.

In fact, ODRL specifies as an important note that A Permission that is not specified in any Rights Expressions is not granted. That is, no assumptions should be made with regard to Permissions if they are not explicitly mentioned in the ODRL expression. As this is a decision of the data-model, ODRL will have to carry every possible exception allowed by law in its agreements to allow the full expression of a certain copyright. One immediately concludes that this is not very practical.

A second instance repeats that point. Normally, the copyright on an item expires 70 (or 50 depending on the legal framework) years after the death of the author. As ODRL models Date/Time as Constraints, this can't be expressed. Consequently, the permissions will have to be renegotiated. Re-negotiating after a period of 70 years after the death of the author raises concerns about finding the right person to talk to. It would be better to be able to express that the right disappears at a certain point in time. At the same time, the First Sale Doctrine can't be expressed using ODRL.

ODRL is a language not specific to the Internet or the Web. It can also be used to attach metadata to rights on tangible goods (like books, CDs) as described above. That's why the existence of a spatial constraint is not an issue per se. But the application of spatial constraints to the Internet raises a lot of concerns and faces not only practical problems.

The aforementioned issues are not easy to address as they require the expression of exceptions. Today we still have trouble to express rights in a machine readable and processable format. Consequently it is even harder to express exceptions to those rights. ODRL goes a long way to help authors and recipients of copyrighted works to better handle those items. It adds a very important piece of mosaic: It allows the expression of the cycle of production and use of intangible goods in metadata. With ODRL, authors will be able to express most of their restrictions and those using works from others will have much more ease in finding out whether a given use is possible or not. In fact there is not only piracy in this world when it comes to copyright. There are also people wanting to respect works they are using, but are unable to determine whether they are in violation of rights or not, notwithstanding the issue of finding the author or appropriate person to ask.

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 DRMpublic mailing-list, W3C's AC and the community at large.

A discussion 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 liaisonwork 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.

Author: Rigo Wenning, Privacy Activity Lead,