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RealNetworks, Inc. Position Paper

W3C Workshop on Digital Rights Management
January 22-23, 2001, Sophia Antinopolis, France

Respectfully Submitted by Jeff Albertson
Program Manager, Consumer Products

What are the needs of your company/organization in the field of DRM that you would like to have addressed in the workshop?

RealNetworks, Inc., and its customers have broad-ranging technical needs in the area of digital media delivery. RN's consumer software products, RealPlayer and RealJukebox, serve to connect users to audio, video, and other content in both streaming and persistently stored modes of use. While most web content has to date been offered without regard to copy protection imperatives, increasing numbers of titles are being made available for sale or promotional use in protected formats with associated licenses and usage rights. The challenges of finding and indexing content, evaluating offers and prices, and enabling the interoperability of numerous content protection technologies are paramount issues needing resolution via standardization as this shift to an increasingly "legitimate" marketplace proceeds.

Beyond the sphere of consumer products, many of our customers are global media companies seeking to diversify their content distribution channels into new all-digital formats. These customers are focused on imperatives such as non-duplicative content authoring and packaging processes; enabling a variety of distribution models from wholesaling to superdistribution; and interoperability with a wide range of global payment and clearinghouse mechanisms.

What are your general expectations on the final outputs of the workshop?

RealNetworks would expect that the workshop would arrive at a clear statement of technical areas of digital rights management where standardization is sensible, pragmatic, feasible, and beneficial to the growth of digital media delivery. We would also welcome discussion and decision on areas that for technical or business reasons would not be conducive to successful standardization. We believe that this effort should limit itself to the areas where its work can have the most impact with the highest probability of actual adoption in the marketplace.

What are your potential contributions to the discussion, related ideas, and suggested solutions?

Given the W3C's current direction and energy in the direction of the Semantic Web proposal, what may be most useful is a standard for metadata regarding rights management. Specifically, a W3C-chartered working group could define an RDF-based format for describing the following attributes of a protected piece of content:

  1. System used to protect the content
  2. Where said system can be obtained
  3. Price associated with the content
  4. Where the content can be purchased

However, providing a standard format that's supported by systems that may necessarily be incompatible amplifies an existing problem of brokering between multiple pieces of software that support the same MIME-type and file extension. This could be addressed by a more complete formulization of the "Ask, Tell, Help" conventions described in 1998 with regard to media types: