Information Rights Management

The supporters of the Patriot Act who argue that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear will love this new bug feature that is part of Microsoft’s Office 2003, Information Rights Management or IRM:

Information Rights Management (IRM) in Microsoft Office 2003 gives organizations and information workers another mechanism to help control their own information. IRM is a persistent file-level protection technology from Microsoft that allows information workers to specify who can access and use documents or e-mail messages, and helps protect that digital intellectual property from unauthorized printing, forwarding or copying.

Mac users may not be so happy:

Because the technology is exclusive to Office 2003, it does mean that not only can protected files not be read in Mac versions of Office, they will also be inaccessile to users of older Windows versions, including Office XP. To solve this Microsoft has released a plug-in for Internet Explorer 6 that utilises a built-in HTML version of the rights managed file, which the authoring application automatically creates.

This will likely be a problem for other folks who have not submitted to microsoft. For instance, do you use open source products like Linux, Firebird, Mozilla or other non MS browsers or email programs. You may soon find yourself unable to read certain emails, web pages or documents that have been created in the Office 2003 environment.
I expect you will be reading a lot more about IRM and its implications.