Yes, you heard me right. Sun Microsystems is now tinkering with an open-source take on DRM. DRM (or Digital Rights Management) is simply the copyright protection assigned to digital works like CD’s or DVD’s. DRM has, however, come under attack for being overreaching and violating consumer rights. The DReaM initiative, as Sun has termed it, will balance digital copyright protection with consumer freedom by assigning rights to individuals rather than electronic devices. This approach has been lauded by fair use stalwarts the likes of Lawrence Lessig. Quoth Lessig:

“In a world where DRM has become ubiquitous, we need to ensure that the ecology for creativity is bolstered, not stifled, by technology. We applaud Sun’s efforts to rally the community around the development of open-source, royalty-free DRM standards that support ‘fair use’ and that don’t block the development of Creative Commons ideals.”

The strongest opponents, naturally, are those who have the most work protected under existing DRM. Perhaps when content owners call for more protections it’s not so much about protecting their intellectual property as it is about throwing their weight around. It’s a strange moment when Lessig praises DRM while the industry balks at it.

Daniel Corbett