Digital Rights Management for Geospatial Content

To create and support a large-scale, open market in geospatial resources, Digital Rights Management for Geospatial Content is needed to assure that a “fair value for work (investment)” ethic can be guaranteed so that suppliers of geospatial content can be sure of fair return on individual sales, and users can be sure of fair value for purchases and uses of the geospatial resources.

In a digital world, due to the nature of digital resources and commerce, most digital entities are not sold in the usual sense. When a user acquires an application, he actually acquires the right to use a copy of the application. Possession is not equal to ownership and a system of software and resource licensing has grown up in the digital world that ensures:

  • The user may legitimately act upon a resource if he has a corresponding license for that act
  • The owner should maintain the resource, fixing error and assuring a guaranteed level of functionality
  • The user may be asked to pay the owner of the resource based upon agreed criteria, whether that is a one-time fee, a per-machine fee, a usage fee or some other mechanism stated in the legal contract or license between user and owner
  • The user agrees to protect the owner’s rights based on the agreement. This usually means he cannot backward engineer code or resource, nor redistribute the resource without proper permission
  • The owner agrees to maintain the resource and allow a reasonable access to the users for any fixes that may be required. Again, the extent or degree of maintenance is stated in the user agreement

Digital Rights management, DRM, is any technology that inhibits uses of digital content that are not desired or intended by the content provider and includes specific instances of digital works or devices. For digital content it means preventing the consumer access, denying the user the ability to copy the content or converting it to other formats, while for devices it means restricting the consumers on what hardware can be used with the device or what software can be run on it.

The first-generation of Digital Rights Management focused on security and encryption as a means of solving the issue of unauthorized copying, by locking the content and limiting its distribution to only those who pay. It represented a substantial narrowing of the real and broader capabilities of DRM. The second-generation of DRM covers the description, identification, trading, protection, monitoring and tracking of all forms of rights usages over both tangible and intangible assets including management of rights holders’ relationships. Thus, DRM manages all rights, not only the rights applicable to permissions over digital content.

Although DRM does come in many different forms, it usually has four common stages: 

  • Packaging is when DRM encryption keys are built right into the software, the music file, or the movie file.
  • Distribution is when DRM-encrypted files are delivered to the customers. This is usually through web server downloads, CD’s/DVD’s, or via files emailed to the customers.
  • License Serving is where specialized servers authenticate legitimate users through an Internet connection, and allow them to access the DRM files. Simultaneously, license servers lock up the files when illegitimate users try to open or copy the files.
  • License Acquisition is where legitimate customers acquire their encryption keys so they can unlock their files

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