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Microsoft - Position Paper

for W3C Workshop on Digital Rights Management 22-23 January 2001, INRIA, Sophia Antipolis, France

Tom McMahon, Director of Standards Architecture
Microsoft Corporation
+1-425-703-6157 (tel)
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2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Note: The W3C-Document-License was granted


There exists a strong requirement for interoperable, end-to-end Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems that offer artists, content providers, distributors and consumers a flexible platform for the secure distribution of digital media. Content owners must be able to deliver music, videos, E-Books and other media over the Internet and other pipes in a protected, portable format. Digital content will soon be delivered over "the last mile" to consumers through broadband & media-on-demand services. The associated portals and pipe owners must have a mechanism for monetizing their value-add. Gateways and bridges of many types will soon route this content deep into the home network over both wired and wireless connections. DRM systems must enable consumers to legitimately obtain and consume digital media and while at the same time maintaining the rights and business opportunities of the content owners and distributors. For the sake of discussion at this workshop, a Digital Rights Management system example is described.

The Importance of DRM - A business perspective

The need for strong, flexible, scalable DRM technology has increased due to vast improvements in streaming media, compression technology, broadband delivery, consumer storage devices and home networking. High-quality audio and video are now a reality on the Web. This reality has created one of the hottest trends on the Internet -- downloading licensed, and in some cases, unlicensed audio content. This digital media can be easily copied and distributed, without any reduction in quality. These trends in audio will soon extend to E-Books and video. Consequently, content providers of all types face serious problems protecting their digital media rights while at the same time gearing up for net-based business models.

The software industry has battled piracy for many years. As a result, we have gained a deep understanding of the damage that seemingly harmless media copying can do to artists and corporations alike. With the introduction of media rights management technologies partially derived from advanced software and communications technologies, artists and content providers can now use license registration and media file encryption to protect their digital media rights and stay closer to their customers.

New DRM systems should include both server and client software technologies that enable applications to protect and play back digital media in both connected and unconnected environments. Using these tools, developers may create applications that encrypt digital media files and issue licenses for those media. Such files can be streamed, broadcast or downloaded to the consumer. Developers can enable applications to automatically acquire licenses for these protected media, or, for some applications using packaged media or E-Books, the keys may be carried with (or internal to) the content itself. The consumer can then play the digital media files back on compatible PCs, portable devices, new-media appliances and advanced digital set top boxes.

How A Typical Media Rights Manager might Work

The media rights manager tools would allow content providers to deliver songs, videos, and other media over the Internet in a protected, encrypted file format. The media rights manager helps protect digital media (such as songs and videos) by packaging media files. A packaged media file contains a version of a media file that has been encrypted and locked with a "key." This packaged file is also bundled with additional information from the content provider. The result is a protected media file that can only be played by a person or application that has obtained a license.

A sample Digital Rights Management process is as follows:

Conclusion - Metrics for success must satisfy all stakeholders

Retailers, film studios and record labels are in the process of setting up Internet music stores to distribute media files. Content owners must remain confident that their media files will stay protected, no matter how widely they are distributed.

Digital distribution offers consumers a convenient way to access their favorite content at any time, and sometimes from any place. Consumers will also be able to access higher quality media on the Internet because content providers using DRM will be more willing to make such content widely available. Also, DRM licensing schemes can protect consumers from inadvertently pirating a file. Consumers can be confident that the media they receive is authentic material and they have acquired it in a legitimate manner.

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