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RealTime IT News

Real's Helix Move

Real Network's Helix DRM (Digital Rights Management) software has received another vote of approval, this time a critical one from the FCC. This all comes in the same week that company released the much anticipated final Helix 1.0 media player client.

Helix DRM technology now has FCC approval for secure playback and storage of digital broadcast content over a user's trusted local network. The FCC has mandated that digital television devices that deliver and receive digital content must include approved "broadcast flag" technologies by July 1, 2005.

"This certification by the FCC is another strong endorsement of the robustness and flexibility of Reals Helix DRM Technology and its ability to provide consumers more choice in how they enjoy digital broadcast content," said Surya Mantha, RealNetworks general manager of Broadband, in a statement. "Its application to 'Broadcast Flag' content demonstrates its ability to support innovation in a consumer-friendly fashion while protecting the commercial and legal interests of content owners."

The FCC's broadcast flag mandate is an effort to make it more difficult to illegally copy and transfer digital content. "The broadcast flag in theory is supposed to be a combination watermark and piracy protection vehicle so that 'perfect' copies of digital content that go over your TV cannot in fact be made," explained Jupiter Research Analyst Todd Chanko. (JupiterResearch and internetnews.com are both subsidiaries of Jupitermedia.)

Real Networks Helix DRM includes the Helix DRM Trusted Recorder, which allows for recording of broadcast flag-enabled content that can then be played back using a Helix DRM trusted client. The Helix DRM technology may be included in a myriad of digital devices including PCs, portable media players and digital TVs. The trusted client player is supposed to authenticate itself with the recorder to ensure that content is only copied, transferred and played over the user's network.

"What Real Networks has done is provide a digital rights management system that is going to allow individuals within the parameters of 'fair use' that, in theory, allows an individual to enjoy within certain parameters the right to make copies of books, music or video providing it's within the users own private domain," Chanko told internetnews.com. The digital broadcast marketplace is still somewhat immature in Chanko's opinion, especially in light of the fact that digital televisions are far from being ubiquitous or pervasive.

"The whole broadcast flag issue is in order to re-assure content owners that perfect copies can't be made," Chanko said. "It's nice news, but it's not like it's a very robust market right now where there is lots of piracy going on and Helix is coming to the rescue."

On Tuesday, Real Networks officially released its Helix Player 1.0, which is now licensed under the GPL . Before its release, Linux distributions Red Hat and Novell endorsed it. Real Player 10 for Linux, which is based on Helix, was also officially released this week.

In the entertainment and publishing content industries, Microsoft has been leading the way recently with its own DRM offerings. Microsoft unveiled its latest DRM offering in May, and it is currently in use by AOL, Disney, Dell and the resurrected Napster online music service.