Tackling the DRM vs Portability Quagmire

Digital Rights Management (DRM) specialists Macrovision on Wednesday announced plans to sort through the quagmire of copyright-protection and portability of music CDs with a Microsoft Windows Media data session toolkit that allows the creation of “second session” music files.

The availability of a tool to create “second session” files is seen as a crucial step in the quest to figure out how to protect copyrights on music CDs yet still allow them to be reformatted and transferred to PCs and portable devices.

The major music labels have conceded that consumers must be given the right to transfer music from CD onto computers. Because this leads to widespread file-sharing on P2P networks and copyright infringement, there is also a desperate need for technology to offer both copyright-protection and portability.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based Macrovision said the distribution of the toolkit would solve that riddle by allowing the design and production of “dual session” music CDs that contain both Red Book audio files, which play on traditional home and car stereos, and “second session” files that can be played and stored on a consumer’s PC and portable devices.

“By virtue of this agreement, record labels will have access to a comprehensive copy protection, authentication and DRM solution for their music CDs from one source for worldwide deployment,” the company said.Music CDs created with the Macrovision toolkit would let consumers make personal copies of music CDs while protecting content with multi-level security features to stop P2P file trading. The company said PC-based playback of CDs and transfer to portable devices would be powered by a new component of Microsoft’s new Windows Media 9 Series.

Here’s how it works: Macrovision’s CDS technology secures the “first session” data and also authenticates that the CD is in fact an original copy. Once authenticated, “second session” files can be played, stored or exported to secure portable devices.

Macrovision CEO William Krepick described the availability of the toolkit as a “win-win” for both labels and consumers and went as far as suggesting the mix of DRM protection and portability would help with the survival of the music industry.

General manager of Microsoft’s Windows Digital Media Division Dave Fester called the Macrovision toolkit a “significant step” in the mission to deliver access to digital music while maintaining DRM for content owners.

Macrovision develops and markets DRM, copy protection, and electronic license management technologies for enterprise clients. The company’s copy protection technologies have been included in more than five billion CDs, DVDs and VHS cassettes.

Separately, Macrovision announced a multi-year contract with General Dynamics Interactive to copy-protect Video-On-Demand (VOD) programs distributed to hotels worldwide.

General Dynamics Interactive, which markets the Intrigue Multimedia platforms used to deliver VOD, broadband Internet access and e-shopping in hotel rooms worldwide will use Macrovision’s copy-protection technology in set-top boxes that shuttle VOD programming.

The technology lets consumers view VOD and PPV programming, but prevents unauthorized copying on DVD recorders and distorts unauthorized copies on VCRs and D-VHS recorders. Macrovision said the technology was incorporated within 100 million digital set-top boxes deployed by hospitality, cable and satellite operators worldwide.

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