Open Media Common: Sun’s Open-Source DRM

Sun’s Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz has been speaking at the Progress and Freedom Foundation Aspen Summit about how incompatible strains of DRM from different companies will not be good for the consumer.

Now, we don’t have the benefit of having heard his speech, but it strikes us that he’s a little late to this party. This idea is hardly news to anyone who’s spent more that half a day thinking about the future of digital media. Projects like Coral Consortium have been underway for sometime, exactly for this reason – but at this time Coral is proprietary.

Jonathan’s proposal to elevate the problems on incompatible DRM systems is Open Media Commons, which would be an open-source, royalty-free digital-rights management standard.

It appears that his idea is to launch the idea/project, not deliver a solution tomorrow. He’s offering to start it off by giving Project DReaM, to an internal Sun Labs project, to the initiative. The strange collection of capitalisation around Project DReaM is derived from “DRM/everywhere available.”

Where this type of headline-grabbing announcement is great, is in starting to bring the debate about who should own/benefit from the locking mechanism placed around digital media to the fore again.

It also panders to the media companies who are generally _totally_ paranoid/fed up with having to not only use a protection scheme they don’t own, but also to pay Microsoft for the pleasure of selling their snippets of media to the general public – each and every time they do.

Reuters, who broke the story, got this quote from Jonathan, “The industry generally falls into two camps: Those who support what we’re up to and others who want to collect a fee” for using their own DRM standards.

If it does nothing more that stopping or delaying a media company in making their decision to sign with one of the major DRM providers, then we suspect Jonathan would be pleased.

Jonathan has over the last year, been blog-tastic, writing long, detailed postings about many things – he’s clearly not someone who sleeps a great deal. A lot of his entries have been about open source, indeed in June Sun started to open-source their Operating System (OS) with the project OpenSolaris and Java server software, calling it Glassfish. Not only that, but they have an Open-Source Officer, Simon Phipps.

All of these actions are designed to attacking any income that their competitors (including Microsoft) derive from selling software. Sun, of course, is also in the hardware business, which conveniently will run the open source software.

What we do find a little strange is there are no references to Open Media Commons or Project DReaM on Sun’s Web Site.

While it is good that a company as large/established as Sun is talking about opening DRM up, not to be locked in to any single provider of DRM – we’re not yet convinced that this particular idea has a solid ring about it.

Open Media Commons – Updated
The Progress & Freedom Foundation
Jonathan Schwartz’s blog
Sun Micro shows open-source DRM project