A descriptive data structure provides an abstract representation of a rights management data structure such as a secure container. The abstract representation may describe, for example, the layout of the rights management data structure. It can also provide metadata describing or defining other characteristics of rights management data structure use and/or processing. For example, the descriptive data structure can provide integrity constraints that provide a way to state rules about associated information. The abstract representation can be used to create rights management data structures that are interoperable and compatible with one another. This arrangement preserves flexibility and ease of use without compromising security.