Editorial: Reclaim yourself !  - Tools for content protection - AVNOnline Dec 04
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Imitation isn't always the highest form of flattery - The dynamic of instant publication that is inherent online can easily leave you a victim. Nothing can be more disheartening than finding your content displayed without permission, for anyone with an online presence, piracy is a constant concern.

Enter Digital rights management. DRM enables content providers to protect their content and maintain control over distribution, they can protect and manage their rights by creating licenses for each digital media file.  

DRM generally applies to any business with sensitive or confidential information, with the need to protect high-value digital assets, and the distribution and usage of those assets. DRM technologies are already being used for millions of online transactions every year, and the growth of e-commerce will ensure that industries such as entertainment, online learning, etc. will flourish.

Meanwhile, a report by analysts IDC estimates that the worldwide digital rights management (DRM) market will rise from $96 million in 2000 to more than $3.5 billion by 2005. The obvious benefit of DRM is that any payment is related directly to the actual use made of the work by the consumer. This contrasts with the much broader levies system, in which the consumer pays in advance for potential copies that he or she may or may not make, or indeed may not even be entitled to make.

Within tech realms, DRM typically incorporates the end-to-end management of the rights, including setting access rules, encrypting, attaching metadata, securing distribution of content, providing access keys to paying consumers, enforcing permissions, transaction processing, as well as usage tracking, measuring and reporting.

The flexibility of current DRM software allows for huge variation in the type of payment method (e.g. pay-per-use, subscription), access rules (e.g. first chapter free, pay for the rest) and distribution method (e.g. download, peer-to-peer, streaming).

Digital downloads can be limited by the number of plays, or restricted to one machine. Content is often given away for free (promotional downloads, special offers) in return for the user's registration information.

DRM variations include:  Prepaid; wherebyconsumers pay a set price to download files for perpetual usage rights - much like buying a traditional book or CD. Rental: which allows access to content for a certain period of time, or number of viewings, after which the license expires.

Rent to own; a model that would grant ownership of the content to the consumer after a predetermined number of paid-for rentals. Subscription; isfast becoming the most popular method of DRM allowing access to a set of services for a predetermined monthly fee. Different packages allow different levels of access.

Peer-to-peer: Napster, Gnutella and other similar on-line music sites allowed users to share content directly between hard drives. DRM suppliers were quick to see the advantage of the 'super distribution' method, where a consumer can pass a legally purchased digital file on to friends, who are then unable to access the content, but instead are directed to the website, encouraging them to purchase the right to use the file they have just acquired.

Incentive schemes, which allocate reward points, may also be used to encourage the passing on of digital files. Alternatively, if a document is licensed so that a user can give it away free to three friends, the file would be rendered useless on being passed to a fourth person.

In response to the complex demands posed by digital content theft and the evolution of DRM, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") was developed for copyright owners and their authorized agents. The act enables these parties to notify hosts, billing companies and others providing services to websites displaying stolen content, of the infringement and request that the infringing content be disabled, removed or discontinued by the service provider.

The DMCA enforces the act by issuing Notices to copyright infringers that offer a cost effective alternative to expensive legal proceedings or often ineffective "Cease & Desist" notices.The contents of the Notice are specified under federal law, which requires electronic or physical signatures of those authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner(s)' descriptions of the work that one claims was infringed.

Additional Notice requirements are descriptions of where the material in question is found on a suspected Website; the owner or representative's name, address, telephone, and e-mail address; good-faith statements that the owner or representative believes the disputed posting was unauthorized; and, a legally-binding statement  under penalty of perjury  that the information in the owner or representative's notice, and their declaration of authorization to act on the owner's behalf is accurate.

Addressing "Digital Rights Management" needs, Weston, Garrou & DeWitt, has developed what it calls the world's first automated copyright enforcement device. DMCANotice.com is primarily set to cut down the time and the level of human involvement formerly required to generate DMCA notices.

According to the developer of the program, Lawrence Walters, of Weston, Garrou & DeWitt, "clients now able to complete a simpler form and generate legal infringement notices within minutes, a notice that includes electronic signature as well as the required statements.

The idea is simple enough: a client fills out a short electronic form and, using a blend of the E-Sign Act and the Unsworn Declarations Act, they can generate and serve his own valid DMCA notices which include all required elements contained under federal law.

"What used to take hours of research and prep time has now been virtually eliminated." Walters explained. "This innovative system dramatically reduces the time and level of human involvement previously required to generate DMCA Notices."

Now, clients can simply fill out a simple form and, in minutes, generate a legal infringement notice containing an electronic signature along with all of the legally required statements. The service provider receiving the Notice must immediately disable or remove the allegedly infringing content, or risk liability as a contributory or vicarious copyright infringer under the Copyright Act."

According to Walters, DRM is rapidly evolving. "Most hosting and billing companies have adopted DMCA policies, and immediately comply with valid Notices to avoid monetary exposure for infringement claims. While some foreign service providers still ignore DMCA Notices, even many of the non-United States-based hosts and billing companies are beginning to comply in order to generate business relationships in the United States."

"Previously, Digital Rights Management (DRM) focused on security and encryption as a means of solving the issue of unauthorized copying that is, lock the content and limit its distribution to only those who pay. This was the first-generation of DRM, and it represented a substantial narrowing of the real and broader capabilities of DRM," Walters said.

"The second-generation of DRM covers the description, identification, trading, protection, monitoring and tracking of all forms of rights usages over both tangible and intangible assets including management of rights holders relationships. Additionally, it is important to note that DRM is the "digital management of rights" and not the "management of digital rights". That is, DRM manages all rights, not only the rights applicable to permissions over digital content.

Jason Tucker, Managing Partner with DRM specialists PlayaDRM.com says he hears a lot of misconceptions about DRM. " Most of their concerns are coming from a place of ignorance about just what you can do and just what you can make from using a DRM solution.

"The ability to talk to an individual piece of media and make it do things in real time has huge marketing potential and those who do not see it or the purists' of the net are missing the big picture. TV is not free, commercials pay for it.  Content on the net is not free, advertising pays for it."

"Giving your content out for free and allowing people to just take

it from your member's or free areas without your permission is like leaving a Porsche running in a poor part of town and wondering where is went while you were in the store getting a soda.  You have the tools, they are not expensive to use, and integrating DRM is not labor intensive. 

We see clients recur and recapture members by using DRM'd videos and we see others get new members from their traded files. The excuses are pretty much gone, now you just need to make the leap and try it out," Tucker says. 

For better or worse, Microsoft have also entered the DRM arena, with a product that is said to "protect and securely deliver content for playback on a computer, portable device, or network device."

Windows Media digital rights management (DRM) works by packaging digital media files. The packaged file has been encrypted and locked with a "key." This key is stored in an encrypted license, which is distributed separately. (This feature is unique to Windows Media Rights Manager.)

This packaged digital media file is saved in Windows Media Audio format (file with a .wma file name extension) or Windows Media Video format (file with a .wmv file name extension). To play the digital media file, the consumer needs a player that supports Windows Media DRM.

The consumer can then play the file according to the rules or rights that are included in the license. Licenses can have different rights, such as start times and dates, duration, and counted operations.

The packaged file can be placed on a Web site for download, placed on a digital media server for streaming, distributed on a CD, or e-mailed to consumers. Windows Media DRM permits consumers to send copy-protected digital media files to their friends as well.

Windows Media DRM can enable a range of innovative business models and acquisition scenarios, including; Direct License Acquisition, Indirect License Acquisition, Subscription Services, Purchase and Download Single Tracks and Rental Services.

Dated but highly effective, Digital Watermarking, provides copyright protection for intellectual property that's in digital format. A pattern of bits (binary digits) are inserted into a digital image, audio or video file that identifies the file's copyright information (author, rights, etc.).

The results of embedding marks into images identify both the source and recipient of those images. The images are not visibly degraded by the marks, the marks are recoverable by comparison with the original, the marks are highly resistant to decoding and they can survive image compression.

Watermarks can be invisible or visible, depending upon the function they are meant to serve. The method includes altering the brightness of pixels. In order to make the watermark more resistant to attempts to remove it, the brightness of the unique pixels is randomly assigned and the watermark is placed in the area of the image with the greatest detail. The location of the watermark on images also varies randomly, to thwart global editing of the watermarks.

Encryption is something of an old timer when it comes to the web and content protection, it refers to the processof encoding data to prevent unauthorized parties from viewing or modifying it. Its key goal is to scramble information so that it is not understandable or usable fingerprint  an imperceptible bit of code embedded into the content.

There are two types of encryption: symmetric and asymmetric (also called public key). With symmetric encryption, you run a file through the program and create a key that scrambles the file. Then you e-mail the encrypted file to the recipient and separately transmit the decoding key (which could be a password or another data file).

Asymmetric encryption is more complex--and more secure. Two related keys are required: a public key and a private key. You make your public key available to anyone who might send you encrypted information. That key can only encode data; it cannot decode it.

Your private key stays safe with you. When people wish to send you encrypted information, they encrypt it using your public key. When you receive the ciphertext, you decrypt it with your private key. Asymmetric encryption's added safety comes at a price: More computation is required, so the process takes longer.

Symmetric and asymmetric encryption use different algorithms to produce ciphertext. In symmetric encryption, the algorithm divvies up data into small chunks called blocks. It then switches letters around, changes the information in each block into numbers, compresses and expands the data, and runs those numbers through mathematical formulas that include the key. Then the algorithm repeats the process, sometimes dozens of times over.

An asymmetric encryption's algorithm, on the other hand, treats the text as though it were a very large number, raises it to the power of another very large number, and then calculates the remainder after dividing it with a third very large number.

Finally, the remainder number is converted back into text. Encryption programs can use the same algorithms differently, which is why the recipient needs to use the same application to decode the message that you used to encode it.

Ultimately, solutions to DRM challenges will enable untold amounts of new content to be made available in safe, open, and trusted environments. Industry and users are now demanding that standards be developed to allow interoperability so as not to force content owners and managers to encode their works in proprietary formats or systems.

Digital Rights Management is emerging as a formidable new challenge and its standardization is now occurring in a number of open organizations. According to copyright experts,  the future will see DRM expand from its traditional purview of protecting commercial copyright to a broader role of helping maintain the integrity of information on a network to ensure it is not altered in any way.


Written by Craig Stephens

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