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What Should DRM Look Like?

28 Sep, 2007 By: Anne Sherber

NEW YORK — Protecting content is a necessary evil in the copyright world, despite differing views on how that should be done, panelists said at the Digital Rights Strategies '07 Conference, produced by JupiterMedia.

“A digital world without digital rights management (DRM) would be like a physical world without any doors or windows or even walls,” said keynote speaker Talal Shamoon, the CEO of Intertrust.

Most conference panelists and speakers conceded that no matter what kind of DRM is developed and deployed, some consumers will find ways to circumvent the security measures.

“The trick is to minimize the rewards to the attacker,” Shamoon said.

DRM is often discussed in black and white terms, said David Sohn, senior policy counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. It may be more useful, he noted, to think about tradeoffs for the consumer. Rights management on DVDs treated consumers as passive. Content providers need to be clear with consumers about exactly what it is they are buying, he said. Are they limited to personal copying? What about time shifting? Are they locked into a single platform? Transparency and disclosure are key if content providers want to convince consumers that managed rights facilitate choices, he said.

Fritz Attaway, EVP and senior policy advisor at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), said consumers expect content providers to protect their property.

“Digital rights technology and consumer choice — you can't have one without the other,” he said. “Rent, sellthrough, download-to-own — all are consumer choices made possible by digital rights technology.”

But Attaway noted that the MPAA is opposed to governmental interference. “DRM should be a function of the marketplace,” he said.

Michael Einhorn, an independent policy consultant, took the free marketplace idea one step further, suggesting that content providers allow consumers to freely share content on peer-to-peer networks. He noted that this kind of “superdistribution,” in which consumers recommend content to other users and receive payment for each “sale” that they make, might be the most effective way of fighting the “darknet.”

Managing digital rights includes overcoming the challenge of interoperability. If consumers purchase the right to view a pay-per-view movie from their cable provider, should they have to pay an additional fee for the right to watch that same movie on their iPod?

“Many people are trying to equate DRM and interoperability,” said Jack Fuchs, VP of business development for Inka Entworks. “Some say that you can have one or the other. But enabling interoperability while preserving DRM is possible and desirable.”

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