Tech, Studio Heavyweights Back New DRM Scheme

Two major studios and a handful of tech's biggest names are standing behind a new digital rights management scheme for next-generation content.

A new DRM (digital rights management) scheme for next-generation content has won the backing of two major studios as well as some of the biggest names in technology.

IBM, Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Matsushita Electric/Panasonic, Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. joined The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Studios to back the "Advanced Access Content System," described as a next-generation version of todays CSS (Content Scrambling System) that protects content found on DVDs.

AACS will be licensed to content providers and technology companies later this year to secure recorded content in traditional players as well as in networked and portable devices.

But member companies shied away from the term "DRM," characterizing AACS as a technology designed to protect content on next-generation optical discs such as Blu-ray and HD-DVD. The AACS protocols, which will interoperate with existing DRM schemes, will be designed to allow the content to be transferred to portable and networked devices.

The formation of the Advanced Access Content System License Administrator (AACS LA) was announced Tuesday night. At a news conference Wednesday, members touted the industrywide collaboration that had brought the AACS LA together. The collaboration is different than other efforts in that studios have been part of the technical discussion, rather than licensing the spec when it becomes available, executives said.

"I think AACS will provide major consumer benefits," said Sandra Aistars, chairwoman of the AACS LA and counsel for intellectual property at AOL Time Warner Inc.

AACS has been set up to allow consumers the freedom to pipe content throughout the home and, in some cases, to portable devices. Aistars said one usage model envisioned by the AACS LA group was a media server, where DVDs could be ripped to a hard drive without the need to necessarily play the discs themselves.

In the distribution of movies, AACS cryptography will be applied at the disc replicator level, said Michael Ripley, a staff engineer in Intels corporate technology group. An AACS-approved player would then read the disc, applying the appropriate rights limitations. AACS will also be designed to interact with other DRM schemes, such as content protection within a network.

"This group is not developing a DRM system," Ripley said.

The introduction of a new content management system could once again rework the approach toward digital rights management. Ever since a Norwegian cracker was unsuccessfully prosecuted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for cracking the CSS code, an undercurrent of anti-DMCA sentiment has grown stronger.

At its heart is the notion that the concept of the "fair use" of content is slowly being eroded. The Digital Media Consumers Rights Act of 2003, sponsored by Rick Boucher, D-Va., and John Doolittle, R-Calif., has said that the DMCA forbids consumers from making fair use of encrypted content.


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