Monday, December 14, 2009

When DRM breaks

This isn't standard fare for Linux in Exile, but it falls under the general category of "closed source is bad."

Microsoft has a technology used in their Office products called "Rights Management Services" (RMS). With it, you can encrypt Office files, and (hopefully) limit what and end-user can do with the file - such as printing, copying, editing, and forwarding.

Basically, RMS is a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) applied to documents. I suppose this is targeted at people in the publication business, sharing a Word document with someone, and want to limit the chances information will get leaked. (But really, once you share a document with anyone else, it is out of your control.)

It's dangerous to rely on a third party to protect your information for you. Imagine what might happen if RMS stops working. You may suddenly find that Word has locked you out of your own documents. That's exactly what has happened.

Office 2003 users get "Unexpected error occurred, please try again later or contact your system administrator" when they attempt to open (or save) protected documents. The bug affects Office 2003 products including Excel 2003, Outlook 2003, PowerPoint 2003, and Word 2003.

That's gotta suck if you're trying to get work done. Imagine all those people realizing their own work has been locked away from them.

Microsoft released a hotfix a few days ago, but I'm amused by this note in the hotfix:
This hotfix might receive additional testing. Therefore, if you are not severely affected by this problem, we recommend that you wait for the next software update that contains this hotfix.
So basically, it's not fully tested. And I wonder what "severely affected" means if you can't even access your own documents?


  1. I find it very ironic that Microsoft has a DRM scheme called RMS. RMS must be rather steamed at that one.


  2. @CelloFellow
    If this was Facebook, I would "like" your comment.
    If it was Slashdot, I would mod it to +5 "Insightful".

    Also, to any interested, I have posted on my blog how to make a multiboot Linux live USB on an 8 GB flash drive.

  3. Oh, this is just way too funny. I agree with CelloFellow - "RMS" looks suspiciously like a snark at rms. Ironically, rms's numerous speeches about the evils of DRM are being shown to have some truth to them. Even with Adobe's PDF specification I'm always paranoid about using security features - if a single byte is corrupted that can potentially prevent the entire bulk of information in the document from being accessed. "Data Security" has many meanings, and some are seemingly mutually incompatible.


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