• United States
Senior Editor

Speaking digital rights language

Mar 03, 20042 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Extensible Rights Markup Language, or XrML

When it comes to protecting copywritten material, everyone seems to have an opinion – which may explain why efforts to centralize and simplify secure digital rights have been so fractured.

Even this week’s Technology Update topic has detractors. We are talking about the Extensible Rights Markup Language (XrML).

The idea behind XrML is that it would provide a universal method for specifying rights and issuing conditions associated with the use and protection of content in a digital rights management system. Sounds simple enough, except its central backer is Microsoft which irks a lot of people. Mind you Adobe, HP, Xerox and others support XrML.

According to our author (, XrML enables rights-enforcement software to express access and usage policies for digital content in the form of licenses. XrML licenses define who can access the content, how it is protected and distributed and controls usage rights such as authorized printing and time-based permissions to perform certain operations. When an author protects content, which can be in the form of word processing documents, spreadsheet data, Web-based reports delivered in a browser, or e-mail messages, that content is typically encrypted to prevent unauthorized access or tampering. Inside this encryption is either a license or a pointer to the license on a policy server. When a reader tries to open the document, the application receives the license from the corporate license server, validates the user’s authorization, and enforces the usage privileges defined for that user.

 XrML is slated to become an ISO standard this quarter as the MPEG-21 Rights Expression Language and is also undergoing standards review within OASIS, our author says.

For more on XrML, see: