Warren's Washington Communication Daily, 2006/02/27

Posted by permission of Warren Communications News, http://www.warren-news.com

Technology Gaps Exist

More Flexible Solutions Sought for Entire Digital Media Value Chain

Digital rights management (DRM) standards better tailored to the needs of content creators and end-users could become a reality this year. The Digital Media Project (DMP), which this month completed a standard for interoperable DRM platforms, intends to enrich that "huge collection" of tools to let rights-holders, consumers, consumer electronics makers and service providers make even better use of digital content, DMP board member and CEDEO digital media consultant Leonardo Chiariglione said in an interview.

The interoperable DRM platform specification approved Feb. 9 builds on one published in April 2005, the DMP said. Its open framework lets users mix standard and proprietary DRM technologies configured to serve individual needs while remaining interoperable. The standard represents the "first fully interoperable DRM platform, challenging the market dominance of proprietary systems from companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Real Networks," the DMP said. But the current specifications aren't flexible enough to allow, for instance, a device to "understand" what the word "copy" means and how many legitimate copies of digital content a license allows, Chiariglione said. So in phase 3 of the standard-development process, the project is asking what software technologies exist that can be adapted to more tailored uses.

There are other gaps in DRM technology, Chiariglione said. Creative Commons licenses are "isolated," meaning devices can't switch from Creative Commons-licensed content to others. Metadata -- which give endusers information about the content they're accessing -- exist for MP3 files but not for movies. Online content licensing now requires end-users to go to a particular website and agree to boilerplate terms to buy the right, say, to copy a CD, said Chiariglione. But what if the site owner and consumer could agree to modify the license to give the latter different uses at a range of prices? In addition, he said, DRM systems inform content owners every time a piece of digital music is played. The DMP is seeking technology to allow the parties to negotiate whether that information should be available to the content owner each time or, for perhaps a higher fee, be kept private.

The DMP is also interested in finding DRM technologies to enable users to design and test their own "value chains," said Chiariglione. Example: A journalist writes an article and gives it to an agency, which sells the rights to Magazine A, website B and so on. The publications are subscription-based, so the agency and the writer are paid based how many people read the article. The journalist might want to know -- before actually dealing with the publisher, website operator and end-users -- how the system works.

When it meets in April, the DMP will look at existing technologies and select some to develop into specifications, Chiariglione said. A new phase-3 standard could be in place by Oct. DMP board members also include representatives from MPEG LA (U.S.), the BBC, Telecom Italia, Enterprise of the Future (U.S.), the Sociedad Digital de Autores y Editores (Spain) and the U. of Tokyo. -- Dugie Standeford