Mobile Market Awaits Break in the DRM Logjam

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.

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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.