Digital rights management took significant strides toward being
accepted by mainstream consumers and businesses in 2003, but hackers and
critics maintained their attacks on the technology in the name of fair
use and information freedom.
Not long afterwards, Linux founder and Microsoft nemesis Linus Torvalds
sent a missive to the
open-source community stating that he believed digital rights management
was compatible with the open-computing philosophy, sparking considerable
The biggest move toward consumer acceptance of music rights management
technology came with the release of Apple Computer's iTunes music store in April. Songs distributed by Apple were wrapped in a new, proprietary copy-protection
technology, called FairPlay, that worked seamlessly with the
company's iPods and Macintosh computers. Millions of songs were soon
downloaded, with fewer complaints from consumers than typically had been
heard over antipiracy protections.
Microsoft, meanwhile, continues work on its rights management technology for portable devices, which--once released--is expected to allow much more flexibility in using MP3 players in conjunction with Windows-based digital music subscription services.
Judges and legislators had their say over copy protection throughout the
summer. A U.S. senator introduced
a bill that would put limits on the use of copy-protection
technologies on entertainment products, while a San Francisco judge
heard Hollywood arguments that DVD-copying software should be illegal, because it evaded
movie studios' digital rights management attempts.
Microsoft lost a key--if preliminary--ruling in a long-running patent case, in which smaller company InterTrust Technologies claimed that virtually all of the software company's major products, including Windows, Office and the Windows Media Player, infringed on its copy-protection patents. Later in the year, however, rival Macrovision said it had a prior claim on parts of InterTrust's patents, muddying the legal waters even further.
More tangible steps for digital rights management came soon afterwards.
Microsoft announced details and later released its new Office suite of
software, which includes strong
digital rights management for documents, preventing
unauthorized distribution of e-mail or Word files.
By the end of the year, the lack of standards in the business--and
Microsoft's inexorable steps forward across the field--was prompting
many calls for open
standards and interoperability in digital rights management,
including from longtime antagonist Sun Microsystems.
Hackers were back in the news, too. The Norwegian programmer who
originally distributed the DeCSS software that broke through DVD
protections posted a program online that
A Princeton University student has published instructions for disabling the new anticopying measures being tested on CDs by BMG--and they're as simple as holding down a computer's Shift key. Oct. 7, 2003