Finding an Oasis for DRM

Remember when you might spend a Saturday afternoon listening to new music CDs
on head phones in a so-called record store? Those days are fading away as the
next wave of Digital Rights Management technology rolls in.

In fact, IBM’s Electronic Media Management
(EMMS), the Armonk, N.Y. based computer giant’s
proprietary digital media technology, is being used to help promote a compact
disc from UK rock band Oasis.

All people need do is open their Sunday newspaper and pop the
enclosed CD into their computers to listen to sample tracks from the band’s
newest album, “Heathen Chemistry,” says UK marketing company Spero Communications, which developed a
special player for the promotion.

DRM is what makes it possible. These days the technology is being used to
take control of content so that publishers can categorize and authenticate
users, derive revenue from content, track how consumers use that content and
deter piracy.

Bill Rosenblatt, founder of New York DRM consulting firm GiantSteps/Media Technology
, says that the CD promo appears to be new “in that this
company in the UK has decided to create its own player application for the
music tracks.”

IBM’s EMSS has a client software development kit that enables IBM business
partners to develop applications that download or stream, and then use and
manage content in a tamper resistant environment.

That sounded like a pretty good music promotion concept to Spero, which used
EMMS to develop what it calls the Big Time Multimedia player. The player is
embedded on the CD being distributed via the newspapers.

Users will be able to register online and obtain a digital key that unlocks
the new tracks, each of which can be played up to four times, both promoting
the new album and protecting the rights of the artists.

Limiting usage by the number of plays, or via a time limit, is common to all
DRM technologies.

IBM has been developing DRM for many years, back to the mid-1990s, Rosenblatt
said, adding that the company is at something of a disadvantage in the market
because it doesn’t own any media format. Competitors such as Microsoft , Adobe Systems and RealNetworks do.

“IBM has no control over the format, so they have a software framework that
lets clients develop their own playback applications around whatever formats
they want,” Rosenblatt told

He said that a number of DRM companies have fallen by the wayside, but he’s
convinced the technology is not going away.

“The market is deciding that DRM alone is not worth paying for, but DRM as
part of larger, end-to-end solutions for media distribution and consumption
is worth paying for, so DRM will survive as part of those larger solutions,”
he said.

EMMS consists of several major components, including the IBM EMMS Content
Preparation Software Development Kit (SDK), which integrates DRM capabilities
into vertical or custom applications specific to a content format or an

Another component is the IBM EMMS Content Mastering Program, available as a
turnkey DRM application for music content and its associated promotional
material. It also can facilitate the transfer of content through wireless

In addition to sample tracks, CD recipients for the Oasis promotion also get
a music video, an interview with one of the band members and are entitled to
purchase the new album at a discount from UK music retailer HMV, one week
before the official launch date.

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