May 03, 2004

DRM and Janus


Posted on Mon, May. 03, 2004

Freeing the music from the computer


By Dawn C. Chmielewski

Mercury News

Online music-subscription services like MusicNet or Rhapsody offer a seemingly appealing proposition: all the music you could ever listen to for a flat monthly fee. But there has always been a hitch. The songs remain locked to your computer, unless you pay more to buy them outright.

A widely anticipated announcement from Microsoft today potentially removes that obstacle when the company unveils a new version of its Windows Media digital-rights-management software. Code-named Janus, the software will allow consumers to move rented music, movies or games onto portable devices or distribute them across home networks.

``What we're seeing happen in the second part of this year is really a migration of content off the PC and into people's lives, into handhelds, into TVs, into set-top boxes throughout the house. And this allows for that,'' said Bruce Eisen, executive vice president of CinemaNow, an online movie-rental business in Los Angeles.

The new software has an internal clock that keeps track of the return date on a particular song or movie. Every time the portable music player or a Pocket PC connects to the Internet, or to an Internet-connected PC, the software checks the return date to see if the file has expired.

That internal clock is key to subscription services. Record companies have refused to offer portability without such safeguards. Their fear: Consumers would join a service for a month, transfer all their favorite songs to a portable player in one giant download binge, then cancel their subscriptions.

The new version of Windows Media software would prevent such abuse -- while allowing for portability. The first devices should be available in the fall.

``It gives the consumer another really compelling choice to immerse themselves in music,'' said Peter Csathy, president and chief operating officer of Musicmatch, a music download and subscription radio service based in San Diego.

Janus holds similar potential for online movie-rental businesses such as CinemaNow and MovieLink, which allow consumers to temporarily download a movie to their PC, but not watch it on the living-room television.

Microsoft envisions a new group of consumer devices, from DVD players to digital televisions, that could reach across a home network to find the movie on the PC and display it on the TV.

``So that when the consumer says, `I want to watch this movie,' it works,'' said Microsoft spokesman Jason Reindorp.

Long-time consumer-electronics analyst Richard Doherty said Microsoft worked for five years, and ``spent more money than anybody but Microsoft would spend,'' to address the piracy concerns of major studios and music companies.

Mercury News | 05/03/2004 | Freeing the music from the computer

Posted by Craig at May 3, 2004 07:16 PM