Windows Server 2003 gets 'copy protection'

Microsoft is adding additional digital rights management on Windows Server 2003 and Office 2003 to limit who has access to your private corporate documents. But can your OS handle the software?

No, it's not what you think. Thank heavens. But Microsoft is going to put additional digital rights management (DRM) in Windows Server 2003 and in the new Office 2003.

Microsoft is calling it Windows Rights Management Services (RMS), and the goal is to secure corporate documents from any prying eyes (not in the least your own employees). This is potentially good for the company, but perhaps not so good for external investigators.

The stuff is XrML-based, which is a new standard for expressing rights in digital content. Redmond implemented this as a Web service (ASP.NET), probably counting on the fact this thing will work fine via the Internet, which is reasonable in a commercial environment.

Rights Management Services will be able to work with apps like e-mail clients, word processors and sensitive corporate documents -- stuff like designs, research results and the like. All these will be protected in a persistent way, and the code to do this will reside in the documents themselves. It allows or disallows (using time-based expiration dates) things like printing, copying and forwarding.

Because support for XrML will not be introduced until Office 2003 is released, users with older operating systems, including XP, will not be able to use the RMS. Redmond said it is developing tools that will allow users with older operating systems to view RMS-enabled documents using Internet Explorer.

The master plan is, of course, that apps will be written so that your end-user can easily designate who has access to specific content and what kinds of access rights they have. I can already see the tech support problems attached with this kind of thing. This stuff could easily proliferate to your back office servers and even to your games. Organizations will be able to enforce these policies outside the company.

For more information, visit the Microsoft web site.


Stu Sjouwerman is editor of the W2Knews and the founder of Sunbelt Software. This article was originally published in the March 3 W2Knews.

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