Microsoft Releases New Anti-Piracy Software Toolkit

Microsoft Corp. is out with a new software release that
it says will enhance copyright protection for the music industry.

The Windows Media Data Session Toolkit will enable music companies to place
songs in multiple layers within a copy-controlled compact disc, so that it
can be player in a CD player or personal computer.

Music CD sales slumped 11 percent last year in the U.S. and record labels
continued to be bedeviled by the dramatic growth of unauthorized downloading
of music content off the Internet. Officials from the International
Federation of the Phonographic Industry speaking in Cannes, France at the
annual Midem music conference over the weekend said hundreds of millions of
unauthorized music files are being shared around the world.

Microsoft says its new software is being adopted by MPO, the world’s largest
independent CD manufacturer, and that it has signed up music giants Vivendi’s Universal Music Group and EMI Group PLC. But AOL Time Warner
and Sony Music, two of the world’s largest music companies
have yet to formally support the new Microsoft anti-piracy software release.
RealNetworks is also involved in competitive media
protection software.

Microsoft has made digital rights management (DRM) a priority and has
invested $500 million in a bid to protect copyright, and provide an
effective rights solution for the music industry.

Microsoft’s latest bid at music copyright protection is designed to limit
the copying of music bought in retailers. The same software can also be used
to protect DVDs, the emerging standard for movie video distribution.

Microsoft’s software is designed to be used with software, such as that from
SunnComm Technologies Inc. SunComm’s MediaMax CD-3
copy-protection solution prevents songs on music CDs, known as “red book”
audio, from being copied onto a PC, but will allow the discs to work in a
home stereo or car stereo unit.

The new Microsoft software will allow music companies to customize their
CDs by in some cased adding a second batch of songs, and other digital
images and video files to their CDs. These files are referred to as “second
session” files that will allow PC users to have a legal copy on their
computers. But these “second session” files can be programmed with a variety
of different copying limitations, such as putting in blocks designed to
prevent copying onto CDs or sharing the songs with Internet file-swapping
services.

Microsoft has also given music companies copyright control tool that will
allow users to email songs, but with degraded sound quality or expiration
dates that will make the songs unplayable after a certain date.

The software product that Microsoft is offering to the music companies and
other copyright holders is a new component of Windows Media 9 Series, known
as the Windows Media Data Session Toolkit.

One aspect of the new Microsoft software release is that licenses to be
issues without users having to go online to formally register. The onus will
be on content owners to decide what level of playback use, or protection
they would like to issue to their customers.

Last week Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Business
Software Alliance (BSA) and Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP) reached
an agreement on a core set of principles relating to the protection of
intellectual property rights. Microsoft says its new toolkit is in keeping
with those principles.

Also as part of its announcements as part of the Midem conference, Music
Choice Europe says it has chosen Windows Media 9 Series as the software
system for its broadband music subscription service, which it is now
offering for European ISPs for deployment.

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