AP’s DRM – just another boatload of crap

In light of the recent news about how the Associated Press was going to wrap all its news in some fandangle new kind of DRM which they weren’t going to talk about it anymore both Duncan and I posted our opinions. While Duncan took the more subtle sarcastic approach I went for the more “are they frikken stupid” line. As the rest of the blogosphere had their say as well Ed Felton from Freedom to Tinker decided to take a closer look at exactly what the AP was proposing.

Now if you don’t know of Ed Felton you’re missing out on the thoughts and opinions from a very smart man who has caused more than his fair share of grief when it comes to things like e-voting and other important security related matter. It turns out that Ed isn’t overly impressed

It seems that there is much less to the AP’s announcement than meets the eye. If there’s a story here, it’s in the mismatch between the modest and reasonable underlying technology, and AP’s grandiose claims for it.

The key component of AP’s plan is a new microformat that they and the Media Standards Trust introduced a couple of weeks ago. After looking at this part of the plan to DRM the news Ed had this to say

Unfortunately for AP, the hNews spec bears little resemblance to AP’s claims about it. hNews is a handy way of annotating news stories with information about the author, dateline, and so on. But it doesn’t “encapsulate” anything in a “wrapper”, nor does it do much of anything to facilitate metering, monitoring, or paywalls.

AP also says that hNews ” includes a digital permissions framework that lets publishers specify how their content is to be used online”. This may sound like a restrictive DRM scheme, aimed at clawing back the rights copyright grants to users. But read the fine print. hNews does include a “rights” field that can be attached to an article, but the rights field uses ccREL, the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language, whose definition states unequivocally that it does not limit users’ rights already granted by copyright and can only convey further rights to the user.

So in other words folks this new initiative from the Associated Press is nothing but a smoke and mirrors show not only meant to send us bloggers cringing back into our holes but also make newspapers who sign up believe that the AP has them covered – when in fact they don’t. Instead they will have been conned into forking over good money for something that doesn’t really exist.

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