Chaos Tries to Bring Order to Digital Music

Australian online music retailer ChaosMusic has allied with Microsoft to market, promote, and place protections on digital audio and video at its site.

Within the deal, Chaos will use Microsoft’s Windows Media Technologies (WMT) 4.0 to make protected downloadable music from its roster of local artists, as a prelude to the platform’s consumer launch in Australia later this year.

Chaos will also maintain its base of digital downloads via Liquid Audio and MP3, although the latter will continue to be used as a promotional tool for its roster of local and international artists.

According to Chaos content manager Jeff Knibb, the retailer will be the first site in Australia to use WMT 4.0, Microsoft’s foray into managing digital rights for downloadable music. The software includes Windows Media Rights Manager software, which consists of a Windows Media Packager and a Media License Manager.

To prepare content for distribution, producers and copyright holders send standard streaming and downloadable media files, in such formats as ASF, WAV, and AVI, through the Media Packager application. Files are packaged with visual components such as logos or album artwork, and ‘locked’ through standard Digital Rights Management encryption.

In order to unlock and play a file, end users need a separate license that contains the ‘key’. Media files and licenses are stored separately, making it easier to manage the entire system. If an expiration date is issued with the license, the content will play until the expiration date is reached.

Consumers can freely distribute the media files through e-mail or on Web sites, but because licenses are unique to each user and cannot be shared or copied, each consumer must acquire a license to play the files. As each license is unique to each PC, Microsoft has maintained that it is nearly impossible to break it and copy a file.

The Media Rights Manager server creates and manages pages on the Web site, issues licenses to registered consumers, and stores information about media files, licenses and users. The server components operate separately on a Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 database.

Although the licensing premise opens e-commerce potential for the WMT files, Chaos is still determining on what basis it will allow users to access them.

Knibb said that the company can choose to ask users to register for a license by supplying demographic and e-mail address details, by subscribing on a pay-per-exposure basis, or can pay for an unlimited number of ‘listens’ over a limited period.

Both companies will also collaborate to promote Australian music and video products on the Internet, by cross-marketing each other’s online properties and artist-centric streaming audio and video events.

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