XrML and the activity in MPEG are connected
I think that the report has not fully informed itself in the area of RELs, particularly with regard to the activities within MPEG-21 (Moving Pictures Experts Group Multimedia Framework initiative). In para 5.6.4, the concluding remarks of the chapter on technical aspects (Helberger et al. 2004, p. 92f) there is a significant factual error, which leads the reader to assume that XrML (eXtensible rights Markup Language) and the activity in MPEG are not connected. In fact they are, as XrML provided the baseline for the MPEG REL. Furthermore you refer to IPMP (Intellectual Property Management and Protection) as though it were a REL. It is not. IPMP covers all the activities that can be brought together generally under the DRM acronym.

MPEG went out of its way to avoid using the DRM tag, simply because it didn't want to be saddled with legacy thinking. The current MPEG-21, part 4 is now called "IPMP Components" and at present it provides tools to enable different proprietary DRM systems to talk to each other. Currently there is no intention within MPEG to specify any kind of security algorithm that could be used for encryption. The specification, at heart, is about messaging.

What MPEG really is and does
This brings me on to a wider point, which is the whole issue of your coverage of MPEG-21, which is not really very adequate. Over the five years since its beginning, MPEG-21 has specified a whole bunch of tools that could be used in combination to create an environment for the secure delivery of content. While a lot of these specifications have, apparently, nothing to do with DRM, they are all focussed ensuring that all users in the system can have access to standard technologies. For instance, "Digital Item Adaptation" provides tools to ensure that content can be rendered on different platforms, an essential part of interoperability. "Event Reporting" is being specified so that both rights holders and consumers can have an audit trail. While I don't expect anyone to have the extensive knowledge of MPEG-21 possessed by those intimately involved in the standard, I think that it would have been possible to see that the MPEG-21 initiative is an honest attempt to work on many of the issues covered by the INDICARE report.

Why symmetric REL is a misnomer
Finally, I would like to bring to your attention MPEG-21, Part 6, the "Rights Data Dictionary", in which I was closely involved. This is an attempt to provide a platform for interoperable metadata for rights, so that content from different metadata environments can be integrated. That said, there is some other work we are doing connected with the RDD that I'd like to mention. This is in the area of rights statements, which we believe can be used to create offers. At the moment, RELs are all about permissions rights holders give to consumers. It is a one way business. The issue of symmetric RELs (Niels Rump and I wrote about this for INDICARE, see Rump and Barlas 2005, and rejected the term) is that they maintain the "permission" modality and do not embrace the negotiation modality. Rights statements would be part of an agent based negotiation process. Certainly, without the rights statement (here's my offer, you can do this, this and this, but not this and if you do this, we will do that), you cannot move on to any kind of automated negotiation based on personal profiles. That is, I think, where we need to get to.

Bottom line
The INDICARE report addresses the right topics, however picking up one technical aspect, namely Rights Expression Languages (REL) and the work of MPEG-21 there is room for improvement.

  • Helberger et al. (2004): Helberger Natali (ed.); Dufft Nicole; Gompel, Stef; Kerényi, Kristóf; Krings, Bettina; Lambers, Rik; Orwat, Carsten; Riehm, Ulrich: Digital rights management and consumer acceptability. A multi-disciplinary discussion of consumer concerns and expectations. State-of-the-art report, Amsterdam, December 2004; http://www.indicare.org/soareport
  • Rump, Niels and Barlas, Chris (2005): When "playing" isn't "playing" or how to achieve semantic interoperability. INDICARE Monitor, Vol. 1, No. 8, 28 January 2005; http://www.indicare.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=68

About the author: Chris Barlas has more than twenty years experience of rights management. In the mid 1990s, he led the European Commission supported Imprimatur project. Subsequently he was involved in other successful European Commission projects including which delivered the widely adopted analysis of metadata interoperability. He has also worked as a writer and producer in television and radio. As a Senior Consultant at Rightscom, he has advised a leading software company on its eBooks strategy, a major distance learning institution on third party rights management and an international bank on its publishing work flow technology. In the public sector, he edited the CEN/ISSS DRM study and co-authored WIPO's recent report on DRM. Chris has been active in international standards development. At MPEG, he co-edited the MPEG-21 Rights Data Dictionary, published in April 2004 and took an early leadership role on standards at the Open eBook Forum. At Rightscom he recently assumed responsibility for developing the market for Ontologyx.

Status: first posted 25.02.2005; licensed under Creative Commons
URL: http://www.indicare.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=80