RealTime IT News

Streaming Media Encryption Spec Published

Looking to kick start the adoption of standards-based technologies for streaming media delivery, the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA) Wednesday released a content protection specification that prescribes interoperability between encoders, streaming servers and media players.

The non-profit ISMA said its Encryption and Authentication Specification v.1.0 builds on the core ISMA Specification 1.0 released in 2001 and sets a framework for the secure content delivery over IP networks. It effectively adds a legitimate digital rights management spec for the MPEG-4 digital media distribution standard.

The lack of DRM capabilities to protect multimedia content delivered in MPEG-4 is one of the biggest headaches for MPEG LA, the group that represents the 18 patent holders pushing for adoption of the standard and the release of a new encryption and authentication spec is seen as a major boost for large-scale adoption of MPEG-4.

The MPEG-4 standard allows a single form of compression on all media players and it has become quite popular among the developer crowd because of the ability to add text, animations and graphics in an object-based setting. It competes directly with proprietary formats from tech heavyweights like Microsoft and RealNetworks .

The Alliance, which counts AOL Time Warner, Apple Computer, Envivio, Sony Corp. and Sun Microsystems among its members, believes the new specification would set up a complete encryption scheme for streaming media and file downloading that is married with different key and rights management technology and licensed content protection devices.

Additionally, the ISMA Encryption and Authentication 1.0 is being touted as player- and device-type independent, making playback on desktop computers, tablet PCs, set-top boxes, media servers, mobile devices, and personal digital assistants possible.

The published specification has adopted a modularized approach using simple interfaces, so that various codecs such as MPEG-2 or the Advanced Video Codec (H.264) may be used. Likewise, the AES 128-bit encryption algorithm is the chosen default, but stronger encryption can be easily added if necessary, the Alliance said.

According to ISMA director Todd Tomlitz, the new specification provides an alternative for content providers looking to use existing open standards to handle interoperability between all types of devices.

"[This will] increase market adoption of products and services offered by a wide variety of vendors, and promote revenue-generating opportunities for content creation and delivery over public and private Internet networks," said Tomlitz, who doubles as engineering manager for Streaming Infrastructure Products at Sun .