ISMA Pushes DRM for MPEG-4

With the pace of MPEG-4 adoption slowed by the absence of Digital Rights
Management (DRM) capabilities, the non-profit Internet Streaming Media
Alliance (ISMA) is pushing ahead with plans for the final release of a
content protection specification in June.

The ISMA, which is leading the lobby
for market adoption of an open standard for streaming rich media over the
Internet, has released for peer review a new DRM spec which defines an
implementation agreement for streaming ISO-compliant MPEG-4
video and audio over Internet Protocol networks.

The alliance is looking for experts in network security, content
protection and cryptography to review the completed ISMA Content Protection

Once it clears peer review, finalization of the DRM spec is expected in
June. The ISMA promises the DRM 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.

ISMA president Tom Jacobs said the new spec is based on the National
Institute of Standards & Technology’s (NIST) 128-bit AES encryption
standard, which is being used in consumer electronic and wireless
communities. “[It’s] unencumbered by any additional royalty fees and
intellectual property concerns and compatible with established Internet
Engineering Task Force (IETF) specifications,” Jacobs said.

The lack of DRM capabilities to protect multimedia content delivered in
MPEG-4 is one of the biggest
for MPEG LA, the group that represents the 18 patent holders.
Without viable DRM software in place, Yankee Group analyst Ryan Jones
recently said content producers would turn to rivals Microsoft and RealNetworks for encoding because DRM
tools are fitted within a single encoding platform.

“It is a big concern among many media companies, big and small…MPEG-4
is already at a disadvantage because of the installed base of media players
from Microsoft and Real. That popularity is very difficult to overcome. The
DRM hurdle is a huge one,” Jones told

MPEG-4 currently allows content producers to use interfaces to accept
third-party DRM software but because it is left so wide open, is a huge
turn-off for content owners. Microsoft and RealNetworks have already built DRM
within their respective offerings and Jones said content
owners are choosing those platforms ahead of MPEG-4 because they want a
single solution on a single platform.

Now, it appears the ISMA has found an aspirin for the DRM headaches. The
latest spec will build upon the alliance’s v1.0 specification released in
2001 and it is being hailed as the “significant next step” towards market
adoption of multi-vendor, interoperable streaming media products and

“It builds upon existing open standards and provides a core technical
foundation for the protection of digital content. It will ultimately enable
a wider range of high-value content to be distributed by content owners and
help to promote greater product and service interoperability,” Jacobs

The alliance said the content protection scheme was designed for easy
integration with many different types of rights and key management systems.
The ISMA was founded in 2000 by MPEG-4 patent holders including Apple
Computer , Cisco Cystems , IBM Corp.
and Sun Microsystems .

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