Endings and Beginnings

by Georg Greve

Originally published in German Handelsblatt Nr. 181, 2004 September 17th, Page 19

Do you know what "Digital Rights Management" - aka DRM - is? Here's how it works: Your newspaper is available via subscription only - buying from a kiosk isn't an option. The publishing house make you agree to only read the paper at home. As soon as you leave your house, the letters on the page disappear - unless you paid an additional fee. And if you cancel your subscription, all the letters on all the papers you've collected also disappear.

You think I'm delusional and need to visit a psychiatrist? Well, this scenario is completely based on reality: "Janus" is a service from Microsoft to "rent" music and exactly follows the model described above. And if the customers accept it, then the company can look forward to easy money.

And there are other IT companies who also want to profit from rights management: There is a notebook chip provided by IBM, Utimaco delivers encryption software.

But what does this have to do with your rights? In choosing a name, Microsoft went back to Roman mythology: Janus was worshipped as god of the beginning and the end. And in name Microsoft have begun the end of user rights and the beginning of user restrictions: Digital Restriction Management - the acronym DRM remains the same.