More fun with Sun DRM

[Wrote this months ago when I was looking at DReaM, never quite finished, but figured I’d flush it from the queue. I was a much better-behaved blogger when my blogging tools didn’t let me save drafts…] 

Let me preface this, again, by saying that Sun’s DReaM is quite likely the best option out there for DRM/CRAP. [Lessig apparently agrees.] So much so that I’d actually like it to succeed. The following commentaries should be taken, then, as constructive, fixable criticism.

  • I mentioned yesterday that I found the use of ‘Life’ to describe a market segment just… gross. Today I find that in Sun’s specs, they refer to this segment as the ‘personal-content/life’ category. Getting there. I’d much prefer ‘Personal Content’, since they are primarily aiming at specific use cases around personal, shared content- i.e., I want to share pictures so that only family can see it, for example. I tend to prefer the more open declarative living model, but I can see how this would be useful to a lot of people, and ‘personal content’ seems to nail the name on the head.
  • The DReaM MMI Spec (the one I had to register to get) has a full-page EULA. All things considered, it is a completely reasonable, non-evil EULA, so I can’t necessarily blame Sun completely, but it does point up the need for something like’s attempts to make EULAs more standard and more human readable.
  • I mentioned yesterday that a requirement for a locked down client OS would make DReaM… well, unpleasant. It seems that at this time DReaM punts the issue, saying that ‘robustness requirements/rules for a DReaM-MMI client are not specified in this document.’

In the category of things Sun probably can’t fix, but is mostly out of their control:

  • The MMI spec pays lip service to fair use by mentioning it at all, but then says ‘it would be much simpler if there were a crisp, clear answer to what constitutes fair use… The over-arching vision of Project DReaM is to respect the rights of content owners…’ In other words, ‘fair use is hard, and realistically, our sponsors are content providers, not fair users, so we punted it.’ Not unexpected- it is pretty impossible to even dream of a DRM system that actually respects fair use- but I’d love it if a DRM implementor had the balls to step up and be honest about it. It might provide the motivation to actually get some motion going on clarifying the situation.
  • The spec provides for the transmission of location information. I am inherently opposed to the notion that people should have different rights to information because of where they live, but that’s already ingrained in the systems we have, so I suppose Sun gets to either do that or obliterate any chance of actually getting deployed. Maybe when Sun goes live the FSF needs to fork it and provide a morally upstanding version of DReaM. :) [I know the FSF is inherently opposed to DRM, but I do think that as more and more of life goes on the web individuals will need restrictions management tools, and that seems like an important individual choice that Free Software may want to enable, while ensuring that such choices don’t enable governments and others to make choices like region encoding.]