Yesterday, while opening an email that I received in Outlook, the following message appeared. It may have appeared when the message was opened, or when I attempted to open the PDF file that was attached. I'm not sure. But it's the first time I've ever seen such a message and it made me wonder how long it will be until we start to see more like it:
Information Rights Management (IRM) in Microsoft Office 2003 helps prevent sensitive documents and e-mail messages from being forwarded, edited, or copied by unauthorized people.
To use IRM, you need to install the Windows Rights Management client. If you have an existing version of the Windows Rights Management client installed you will need to uninstall it first and then download the latest version of the Windows Rights Management client. Do you want to downloaded the latest version now?
Here's the screen shot (it's too wide to fit in the blog). I clicked the NO button and everything moved along quite swimmingly. I was not prevented from opening the document or forwarding it. Besides, it wasn't the sort of document that I imagine being very confidential. But I wasn't sure what triggered the message. Was it something about the document? Or, was it some sort of timed marketing? I don't know. But it sure got me thinkin' about where things are heading with text. In addition to companies wanting to keep a lid on trade secrets, intellectual property, and other sensitive information, I also see media companies -- especially pay-to-play ones -- using similar technologies to keep their articles from being forwarded around on e-mail or copied onto the Internet. Note to the editor of the Wall Street Journal: I get a lot of full-text versions of your stories that one normally has to pay for. I don't ask for them. They just show up (often from people I don't even know). I'm guessing technologies like Microsoft's IRM will do to text what Apple's FairPlay does to music and videos.
Microsoft isn't the only one with such a technology.
A few days ago, Danny Weitzner, general counsel to the World Wide Web Consortium, wondered how it is that PDF files can phone home. In his blog, he note the following description of Adobe's LiveCycle Policy Server:
About Adobe LiveCycle Policy Server. Authors who protect their documents with Adobe LiveCycle Policy Server can audit what is done with each copy of the document (such as opening, printing, and editing). They can also change or revoke access rights at any time. If an author has revoked access to a document that is protected by Adobe LiveCycle Policy Server, Adobe Reader or Acrobat informs you that your access rights have been removed the next time you try to open the document.