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IBM's xCP Puts a Twist on Content Protection

IBM Corp. on Monday lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding xCP (eXtensible Content Protection), the digital rights protection architecture that promises to solve the riddle of portability for content creators.

Big Blue used the spotlight of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual conference to showcase the goodies from its Digital Media Factory and finally unveiled the xCP initiative which puts a twist on content protection by allowing access to DRM-protected media on and off the PC.

The new technology, which builds on Big Blue's existing CPRM and CPPM digital rights management technologies, requires little or no Internet connectivity and works by allowing all of the devices within a "home" network to establish common media keys. The unique IDs distinguish each device in the network from other devices, preventing use (viewing or listening) of the content by devices outside the network, the company explained.

For content producers, xCP releases the noose on media content beyond the PC and extends content to network devices. It allows "fair use" mobility within a household network and, at the same time, prevents unauthorized digital content distribution from one household to another.

The xCP technology, based on IBM's Cluster Protocol, works by assigning a key within each household that's embedded into devices like MP3 players, DVD players, cell phones, PDAs, televisions and entertainment systems in vehicles. They key then unlocks copy-protected content on all the devices.

Big Blue said xCP can be linked with IBM Web Services technology to provide a platform to physical media and the necessary network architectures to enable commerce on any platform. xCP supports plug-n-play functionality for a limited number of devices. For example, the company said, a user might play content seamlessly on his home theater in one room of a house. When a wireless audio player, for example, is purchased for use in another room in the house, this new device automatically joins the domain and has access to the existing content.

Even as it unlocks DRM beyond the PC, the protection technology lets content owners retain control over the distribution of content. "If a user's friend were to download some of the user's files, the content would not work on the friend's player without first acquiring an additional license," an IBM spokesperson explained.

IBM also used the trade show to debut Digital Media Center (DMC), an infrastructure for broadcasting and entertainment that offers a digital video storage system built on open standards.

The new Digital Media Center comes equipped with IBM FAStTStorage, IBM eServer pSeries severs running on AIX, IBM eServer xSeries servers running on Linux, IBM General Parallel File System (GPFS), and IBM Global Services Integration services to install and manage new digital broadcasting environments.

The line of FAStT disk storage servers lets customers to create small high-bandwidth Storage Area Networks (SAN) that support a variety of operating systems.