May 03, 2004

DRM Software

New anti-piracy technology from Microsoft

New anti-piracy technology from Microsoft
Jennifer L. Schenker IHT
Monday, May 03, 2004

In a move designed to extend the range of devices on which consumers can legally play and transfer music, movies and other content downloaded from the Internet, Microsoft was expected to announce Monday a new version of its digital rights management technology to combat piracy.

Microsoft said the new version of its Windows Media digital rights management, or DRM, technology would enable consumers to play downloaded music and video on many PCs, portable audio devices and media players, mobile phones and Pocket PCs as well as networked devices connected within the home like digital audio receivers.

"The technology will enable all kinds of new and different scenarios," Erin Cullen, Microsoft's lead product manager for Windows digital media division, said in an interview.

Cullen said a long list of companies had agreed to support the new version of its DRM technology, including America Online, Disney, Napster and On Demand Distribution, a European music downloading service. But many big-name entertainment companies are missing from Microsoft's list, evidence, analysts say, that the jury is still out on which technology will be used by a majority of content providers to control copying or to charge consumers for each recorded work downloaded.

In order to pay royalties to copyright holders, DRM technology needs to be embedded in all the hardware on which music, video and other forms of content play. Because of its strength in PC operating systems, Microsoft's entry into the sector and the enhancements are expected to help DRM to become more prevalent. The lingering problem, analysts say, is that there are a number of competing DRM technologies and no single DRM solution is poised to become an industry-wide standard.

Gartner, a technology consultancy, predicts that DRM technologies embedded in hardware like MP3 players will not become widespread before 2009, meaning consumers could be faced with a confusing situation for some time to come. "While it is possible to use these technologies separately, it is not possible to integrate them today," said Ray Wagner, Gartner's research director for information security strategies.

Music downloaded via Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store cannot be played on a device powered by Microsoft's Windows Media Player. Music from competing services can be downloaded and played on a computer but only through separate media players.

Competing DRM camps include Microsoft, Apple, RealNetworks, Macrovision, and a joint venture formed by Sony and Philips. RealNetworks recently approached Apple about licensing its FairPlay digital rights management controls that prevent songs purchased through iTunes from being illegally copied, but Apple reportedly rebuffed the offer.

Analysts said the attempt to build such an alliance was a response to the fact that the two other main competing camps are bulking up.

A system designed to work across all devices is expected to be introduced this year by Philips, Sony and InterTrust Technologies, a Santa Clara, California-based maker of software used to control digital distribution rights.

Microsoft, which last year formed a DRM alliance with Time Warner, in April announced that the two companies would jointly acquire nearly all of ContentGuard, a digital rights software company, from Xerox, which will retain only a small stake. ContentGuard is a competitor to InterTrust, which is owned by Philips and Sony.

InterTrust sued Microsoft three years ago, charging patent infringement. The lawsuit was settled on April 2 when Microsoft said that it would pay InterTrust $440 million and get a license to use its patent portfolio.

International Herald Tribune

New anti-piracy technology from Microsoft: printer friendly version

Posted by Craig at May 3, 2004 07:14 PM