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Will 2015 Be the Year of Information Rights Management in Legal?

Brian Podolsky

2 min read

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Digital Rights Management (DRM) is not a new concept.  In the 2000s, many music and movie providers started including DRM technology into downloads, to ensure the product is not shared illegally or pirated. More recently, coffee maker Keurig announced plans to embed their new line of appliances with DRM technology. The move was a way to beat back competitors and ensure that only approved K-cup coffee pods would function in Keurig machines.  All these companies wanted from DRM was a way to control their product, whether it be a song, a movie, or even a single-serve coffee pod.  They wanted to control who’s listening to it, who’s seeing it, and who’s brewing it.  Wouldn’t it be great if law firms could have this kind of control over their product: Documents.

Contracts. Agreements. Pleadings. Memos. Filings.  All of these products should only be viewed by those needing access. This is relatively easy to control internally, due to the many security options in content management platforms, as well as Active Directory/NTFS permissions on Microsoft and integrated systems.  But what if you email a document?  What happens when you share a file with that one person who needs to see it?  What’s stopping them from forwarding to their colleagues for opinions?  You can see where this is going.  Once it is out, it is out.  You can have whatever text you want in an email disclaimer, but you can’t un-share your product after it has left your hands.

Here is where Information Rights Management (IRM) comes into play. IRM is a subset of DRM, focusing on enterprise information typically contained within documents. IRM can provide the ability to control who has access to content, what they can do with it, and for how long.  Maybe you want Bob to be able to view a contract but not copy or print it. Maybe Alice can have Modify rights on it. Maybe everyone else on Earth shouldn’t be able to view it at all.  That’s just a sliver of what IRM can do. And this might be the year that law firms start embracing it.  Why this year?  As we mentioned previously, Microsoft is pushing Office 365. Azure Rights Management can then be integrated so all content could be saved up to SharePoint Online and protected at all times, in addition to content living on on-premises servers.  Other companies besides Microsoft are also making a play in IRM.  WatchDox’s EFSS Solution offers integrated DRM technology for documents uploaded to their collaboration system, and opened using their special viewer.  Early last year, IntraLinks acquired an IRM technology, and quickly integrated IRM into their VIA collaboration platform. The interesting thing about the IntraLinks solution is that the protected file can be launched in its native application. All these solutions offer a way to “unshare” a file at any time.

Imagine the ability to pull back important content wherever it may live, with the push of a button.  This will be the future. It might be malpractice to NOT embrace it.  If it’s good enough for a coffee maker, shouldn’t it be good enough for the legal industry?