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DRM Conference Plays Up Interoperability

23 Apr, 2007 By: Jessica Wolf

Interoperability is the watchword for the future of Digital Rights Management (DRM), according to speakers in attendance Monday at the Digital Rights Management Conference sponsored by LexisNexis and Daily Variety.

Representatives from the content, regulatory and technology industries agreed there currently is not enough interoperability of digital content. They also agreed that the right kinds of DRM are key to creating that interoperability for the future. DRM can help consumers manage legally purchased content they from computers to other devices, which they will increasingly do as more households transition to home-network systems for their entertainment goods, panelists said.

But first, there's some major damage control in order when it comes to DRM, said Marybeth Peters, representative from the U.S. Copyright Office, which enforces the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

“People think DRM is evil,” she said. “It's not. In essence, [DRM] is what allows people to buy things they want and get them where they need them.”

Consumers increasingly have a sense of entitlement, she said, thinking that if something is available on the Internet it should be simply free for the taking.

Steven Page, lead singer and guitarist for the pop group the Barenaked Ladies, agreed that music fans, especially, feel a sense of entitlement. Page's Canadian-based band and record company Desperation Records are among the most progressive — they offer DRM-free tracks and special tracks fans can use to create their own mixes.

“But there's also increased passion for music too,” he said. “[DRM] can't restrict people from making that music part of their lives.”

The movie industry stands ready to embrace the digital age, with DRM and interoperability a key issue, said Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The MPPA is working on ways to create a “diverse, high-quality, hassle-free consumer experience,” he said.

“We have an overall commitment to deliver entertainment to consumers whenever, wherever they want it and in flexible ways,” he said. “We wholeheartedly support allowing consumers to make a legal copy of the content they purchase. Consumers who come by their content legally should be able to access it on any device in their home.”

Now is the time for all the players, from IT companies to consumer electronics suppliers to Hollywood studios, to come together with the goal to create appropriate “largely invisible” DRM programs for the digital downloading market, Glickman said.

“DRM, at its heart, is an enabling tool,” he said. “It makes possible all those diverse consumer choices.”

What's abundantly clear is that video providers can no longer rely on the inherent “friction” that has thus far helped hamper the widespread illegal adoption of digital files simply because they are difficult or time consuming to download, said Albhy Galuten, VP of media technology strategy for Sony Corp of America.

In the next five to 10 years, broadband bandwidth speeds will hit 100 mbps, allowing for a DVD-quality download in 15 seconds and a high-definition version in just one minute, Galuten said.

Galuten is a member and booster of the Coral Consortium, an entity attempting to create interoperability standards and solutions for the digital era by creating tools that offer competing content delivery systems an ecosystem in which they can work together and give consumers fair use access to digital content. Coral members include a variety of CE companies, computer manufacturers, record labels, trade groups RIAA, EMA and the MPAA as well as several major studios.

As the digital future speeds forward, “service enabled devices” such as Apple's iPod and even more sophisticated offerings will become more important to digital content consumers than the PC is today, said Talal Shamoon, CEO of Intertrust Technologies Corporation, a company that creates and offers patented software and hardware DRM solutions.

“[DRM] is less about protecting content and more about protecting business systems,” he said “Without DRM, electronic commerce will exist in a very primitive state.”

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