Mobile Market Awaits Break in the DRM Logjam

By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2005-04-01 Print this article Print

Opinion: The mobile and wireless market is awaiting a break in the legal logjam over DRM. High-value music and video may soon be coming to a cell phone near you.

Grokster has hit the agenda of the U.S. Supreme Court. It promises to be one of those landmark legal battles that will produce a decision that profoundly changes life in these United States. In this case, its digital life. Grokster, if youre not already familiar with it, is the peer-to-peer network thats raised the hackles of the music and video industries over the ease with which their products can be pirated and distributed across the Web. For the most part, the legal battle is focused on Groksters wire-based IP technology. But the precedent here will have far-reaching effects and that reach is certain to extend to the realm of high-value mobile music and video content that has been stalled in the United States, awaiting solutions that ensure that the content providers will not be ripped off.
Mobile content is emerging as the next big revenue stream on the wireless horizon. Analysys Ltd., global advisor in the telecom and new-media markets, estimates that mobile service revenue from games and entertainment will grow to more than 3 billion Euro by the end of this year.
What does Grokster have to do with mobile content? Mobile operators saw digital rights management spin out of control in the wired world. "Content owners are hesitant to release their content to users if they cannot protect it," said Harry Wang, research analyst for Parks Associates. The problem rests in one word: interoperability. If you could access movies over your mobile phone—and if it were cheaper and just as easy to download the flick through your mobile phone that interoperates with that big plasma TV you got for your birthday—wouldnt you do it? Thats one of the key issues that Wang tackles in a new Parks Associates report, Digital Rights: Content Ownership and Distribution. Read about how questions surrounding interoperability and digital rights management hinder mobile adoption in the United States. Some companies have tackled the problem on their own. Apple, for instance, doesnt particularly worry about being ripped off. The company gives away the downloads and sells the hardware. Music mavens who use Apples IP services can only get to the content through their iPods. Anyone packing other media players simply cannot play iTunes. That works for Apple but not the industry—nor for the user who wants, say, to transfer some great new track from Moby over to a home theater, slither out to the patio with a tall cool one on a hot summer day, and enjoy a digital blast across some clean, green Bose FreeSpace-51 Landscape outdoor speakers. The OMA (Open Mobile Alliance), the industry consortium, has an answer to that problem…well, they seemed to, at least for a short while. Next Page: The OMA DRM 2.0 and what stands in its way.

Carol Ellison is editor of's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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