Digital Restrictions Management

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This page has not been appproved by the OSGeo and is not official policy but only a work place

The acronym DRM is resolved in two ways:

  • Digital Restrictions Management
  • Digital Rights Management

They basically describe the same thing but obviously from different ideological view points. Each party will say that the other's perspective is wrong and OSGeo should be careful to respect both positions and find a consensus on how to approach them.

History of DRM

"Restriction" in itself is not inherently bad. Consider restrictions for large companies to use your private data for their commercial advantage and everything makes sense. The problem with the term "DRM" is that it has been used by the music industry (nota bene: not the artists but the industry) with the single interest to defend their commercial profits. Information technology and more so the "internet" (ubiquitous availability of digital data) have made business with providing physical digital copies of works of art virtually impossible.

  • Every copy of the digital data is as good as the original
  • The cost for producing a digital copy is next to nothing
  • The original is not lost during the process of copying

Therefore an artificial shortage has to be created to allow to charge more than the mere copying costs. This can be achieved by restricting access.

Avoiding Ideological Pitfalls

Many people think of DRM as the only measure to protect their commercial interests. If OSGeo states that (all kinds of DRM) are by default "bad" this will lead to people wondering off and associating FOSSGIS as an anti-commercial mindset only. If on the other hand OSGeo carefully blances DRM (from both perspectives) and offers help on understanding what DRM is all about and that security is best implemented with Open Source software two good things might come out of this:

  1. more people using OSGeo software
  2. further geodata provider's understanding of which aspects of DRM do not work and do not make sense in the digital world

DRM and Geodata

In general terms the same as above applies to geodata producers but obviously geodata is somewhat different to the 2'17" second punk rock track.

Web mapping technology allows users to also access geodata very easily at almost no cost. Duplication (copying) of the digital geodata is also possible at low costs and the original is not lost either or otherwise impacted by the process of copying. The operational cost of providing access to the geodata once it is there using web mapping technology is low.

But the cost of producing and maintaing geodata is not and usually the geodata covers a much larger area or set of themes than are of interest to the user. Simply imagine that if you want to listen to the above 2'17" second punk rock track you need to get access to all tracks ever published including all romantic ballads that ever gave you a headache. Therefore there is high interst of the geodata industry (geodata producers, providers, brokers, content dealers) in restricting access to their digital data.

DRM and Security

Beware to not mix up security and the above interests. Security is a much larger beast of its own and does not depend on DRM at all. But DRM depends on security. Only security enabled systems will allow to enforce DRM technically. Without security DRM is only a proprietary licensing method that can only be enforced legally.

Public Geodata

(There is a German language working page on how to fund Public Geodata that will be translated to English once it is more or less coherent.)