RealTime IT News

Finding an Oasis for DRM

Remember when you might spend a Saturday afternoon listening to new music CDs on head phones in a so-called record store? Those days are fading away as the next wave of Digital Rights Management technology rolls in.

In fact, IBM's Electronic Media Management System (EMMS), the Armonk, N.Y. based computer giant's proprietary digital media technology, is being used to help promote a compact disc from UK rock band Oasis.

All people need do is open their Sunday newspaper and pop the enclosed CD into their computers to listen to sample tracks from the band's newest album, "Heathen Chemistry," says UK marketing company Spero Communications, which developed a special player for the promotion.

DRM is what makes it possible. These days the technology is being used to take control of content so that publishers can categorize and authenticate users, derive revenue from content, track how consumers use that content and deter piracy.

Bill Rosenblatt, founder of New York DRM consulting firm GiantSteps/Media Technology Strategies, says that the CD promo appears to be new "in that this company in the UK has decided to create its own player application for the music tracks."

IBM's EMSS has a client software development kit that enables IBM business partners to develop applications that download or stream, and then use and manage content in a tamper resistant environment.

That sounded like a pretty good music promotion concept to Spero, which used EMMS to develop what it calls the Big Time Multimedia player. The player is embedded on the CD being distributed via the newspapers.

Users will be able to register online and obtain a digital key that unlocks the new tracks, each of which can be played up to four times, both promoting the new album and protecting the rights of the artists.

Limiting usage by the number of plays, or via a time limit, is common to all DRM technologies.

IBM has been developing DRM for many years, back to the mid-1990s, Rosenblatt said, adding that the company is at something of a disadvantage in the market because it doesn't own any media format. Competitors such as Microsoft , Adobe Systems and RealNetworks do.

"IBM has no control over the format, so they have a software framework that lets clients develop their own playback applications around whatever formats they want," Rosenblatt told InternetNews.com.

He said that a number of DRM companies have fallen by the wayside, but he's convinced the technology is not going away.

"The market is deciding that DRM alone is not worth paying for, but DRM as part of larger, end-to-end solutions for media distribution and consumption is worth paying for, so DRM will survive as part of those larger solutions," he said.

EMMS consists of several major components, including the IBM EMMS Content Preparation Software Development Kit (SDK), which integrates DRM capabilities into vertical or custom applications specific to a content format or an industry.

Another component is the IBM EMMS Content Mastering Program, available as a turnkey DRM application for music content and its associated promotional material. It also can facilitate the transfer of content through wireless networks.

In addition to sample tracks, CD recipients for the Oasis promotion also get a music video, an interview with one of the band members and are entitled to purchase the new album at a discount from UK music retailer HMV, one week before the official launch date.