BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Wireless e-commerce took two steps ahead on Monday, paving the way for improved digital rights management on mobile devices.
The Open Mobile Alliance, whose diverse membership encompasses a significant portion of the wireless industry, announced an “enabler release” of its second-generation DRM specification on here Monday. While not absolutely final, the document will allow content providers, rights management companies and other members of the OMA to begin developing applications that will support the authorized download and playback of richer content, such as audio files, movie clips and other applications.
Separately, a collection of technology companies plus Warner Bros. Studios announced a trust framework called the Content Management License Administrator. When completed, the CMLA will provide a standard set of legal agreements and compliance standards, ensuring that each companys products maintain interoperability with the OMA DRM 2.0 framework.
Both the OMA DRM release and the CMLA are designed to help wireless network providers, device makers and content providers move beyond the background images, ringtones and Java games that have characterized the first generation of downloadable content. The OMA DRM 2.0 release comes a little more than a year after the alliance released the 1.0 DRM specifications, pushed quickly to market to set up a basic DRM framework.
“I think the potential market is much bigger than just personalization,” said Barney Wragg, vice president of Universal Music Groups eLabs division in London. “That was just a first-generation product. First-generation monophonic ringtones—nobody really thought there was a multibillion-dollar business there.”
ARK Group, a U.K.-based analyst firm, has estimated that by 2008 the mobile content market could top $28 billion, of which just under $7 billion could be derived from mobile music alone—a market that hasnt been properly served with the first rights management specification, executives said.
“While Version 1 offered more security, trust models were required,” said Willms Buhse, vice chair for the Open Mobile Alliance Download and DRM Group and head of product marketing at Germanys CoreMedia AG, a content management company. With the number of mobile phones, multimedia devices and broadband wireless increasing, “we see a strong market need for DRM to protect that high-value content.”
OMA members said they were more deliberate with the second release to get the standard right. The reason? Fears of a mobile version of the original Napster.
“The top requirement we received from content providers [for OMA DRM 2.0] was greater security and trust management,” Buhse said.
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Existing products that use the current OMA DRM 1.0 specification protect copyrighted content, such as a ringtone, in three ways: by “forward-locking” content to a device like a mobile phone, and preventing it from being forwarded; by delivering both the ringtone and the right to play it a limited number of times via a single transaction; and by allowing users to forward the ringtone on to other users, who must pay to download the rights management to allow it to be used. This last “separate delivery” mechanism is the basis for whats known as “superdistribution,” or letting users do the work of advertising the ringtone to their friends. DRM 1.0 downloads were accomplished via HTTP or WAP.
In both OMA DRM 1.0 and 2.0, each content file is placed in a secure 128-bit AES encrypted wrapper. A rights description tells the device exactly what the user can or cannot do with that content.
OMAs DRM Version 2.0 definition allows the rights description to be much more flexible. Now the content can be transferred via a stream as well as a download, and even via “progressive downloading,” a download that almost instantly begins playing as the first bytes reach the target device. Content creators can offer the user several free uses of the content, and allow the user to send a free trial to a friend without forcing him to download the DRM software, even through applications like peer-to-peer software. If the friend buys the content, the DRM software can alert the content creator as well as the distributor.
“So if you send me a piece of music—lets say I trust your taste in music—I would buy it,” Buhse said. “Thats an advantage to the marketing of content, and I should get a reward for it.” OMAs DRM 2.0 permits the interaction of data between all the parties involved in that transaction, to reward the first user with such bonuses as additional wireless minutes or additional uses of the content, all defined by the content creator, he said.
Finally, the OMA DRM 2.0 software detects unexpected changes in either the rights model or some other characteristic, revoking the users right to the content.
The OMA will work with the different vendors to ensure interoperability, and the alliance has hosted “Testfests” to ensure the devices work together, said Jari Alvinen, chairman of the OMA and director of strategic architecture for Finlands Nokia Mobile Software. Most wireless carriers, for example, sell a variety of mobile handsets from several vendors, according to a representative of Sprints PCS wireless division. Handing off the trust model from one carrier to the next—DRM “roaming”—will be another challenge, he said.
Content creators approved of the technical specification but frowned on the lack of a totally completed specification. Once the specification is completed, Buhse said he expects 50 DRM 2.0-compliant handsets to be on the market by the end of the year.
Furkan Khan, a product manager for mobile application provider OpenWave, of Redwood City, Calif., said his companys timetable to implement the DRM 2.0 specification is the second quarter. But, Khan added, his personal opinion is that that timeline is “optimistic.”
Beep Science AS, a Finnish mobile DRM company, will soon begin rolling out a software upgrade based on the “principles” of OMA DRM 1.0 and 2.0, said Markku Mehtala, the companys director of business development.
“I think the key thing is the deployment time and the deployment interoperability,” said Thomas Gewekey, who heads Sony Musics Mobile Group. Gewekey noted that there is no comprehensive assessment of rights-managed devices, such as the number of “forward-locked” phones. “If its not interoperable or there are not a large number of partners, its not going to be successful in the marketplace.”
Universals Wragg agreed. Although the DRM 1.0 specification was rolled out slightly less than 18 months ago, deployment of compliant devices began in the summer of 2003, he said.
Both Wragg and Gewekey said they the formation of the CMLA is a significant step forward. The CMLAs founders include Intel Corp., mm02, Nokia, Panasonic, RealNetworks, Samsung and Warner Bros. Studios, and the technology won endorsements from Motorola and Vodafone.
“The CMLA is to [OMA] DRM what a transmission is to an engine in a car,” said Byung Duck Cho, executive vice president of the Telecommunication Network at Samsung Electronics, in a statement. “It finally brings true life to the DRM ecosystem.”