Were you one of the more than 100,000 people that came to ZDNet to watch the movie A load of CRAP? Well, if you missed it, you're not out of luck. My first feature length film (ok, it's only a few minutes) on all that's wrong with proprietary digital rights management (DRM) technology -- what I call CRAP -- will forever be accessible here on ZDNet. That said, it drew such a large audience that we decided it was time for a follow up. In this sequel, I step up to the whiteboard once again to illustrate how you're going to want your digital content to be able flow frictionlessly between the various devices that are capable of playing it back (eg: from your computer to your MP3 player to your Oakley sunglasses to your car) but how that can't happen given the direction things are heading. And, you shouldn't have to worry about where that content originally came from (ie: Yahoo, iTunes, Napster, etc.) to figure out whether it's compatible with any of those and other devices.
Even worse, DRM may very well soon become to a document near you, thereby causing even more problems. In his response to my assertion that he may not fully comprehend the scope of the DRM problem, IBM's
director vice president of open source and open standards is right that we should be keeping an eye on how DRM gets applied to documents. Because of the tightly bundled relationship between DRM, formats, and identity, proprietary document DRM could force the hands of users and IT managers into using specific client and infrastructure solutions the way music purchased at the iTunes Music Store forces people to use iPods for mobile playback. Imagine for example being forced into using a specific document authoring/viewing tool and a specific directory service (or identity management system) because you decided to protect your documents with a proprietary form of DRM. It could happen.
This is why initiatives such as the Sun-led Open Media Commons are worth paying attention to. I don't like DRM. I wish we didn't have to deal with it. But if we're going to have to deal with it, we need to tear down the proprietary walls that stand in the way of interoperability and choice.
Sooner or later, people are going to wake up to the problems being caused by proprietary forms of DRM. Hopefully, their aha! moment won't be a personal trainwreck like it has been for some. If your aha! moment is a personal trainwreck, then make sure you share it with the world so that others can learn from your experience. Here's more on how to do that.