The Digital Media Project  
Source L. Chiariglione
Title Response to Bill Rosenblatt’s article “Digital Media Project Releases Spec for Interoperable DRM” No. 050508chiariglione01

 

Response to Bill Rosenblatt’s article

“Digital Media Project Releases Spec for Interoperable DRM”

  

Even if one disagrees with the outcome, it is always a positive thing to have the result of one efforts reviewed by a respected professional. It is with this mindset that I am writing these notes commenting some of the point made by Bill Rosenblatt in his article “Digital Media Project Releases Spec for Interoperable DRM” (http://www.drmwatch.com/special/article.php/3502806).

  

Our biggest question surrounding the DMP has been about its practical value in the market, beyond that of an intellectual exercise.

There is obviously no a-priori answer to such a question, but I think I can provide some inspiration from a known case. I hope I will be forgiven for quoting the MPEG case.

In the late 1980’s the industry was in turmoil because everybody was seeing that digital technologies were maturing and the digital media market would start. Companies had their own development and deployments, and standards committees all over the place were debating the pros and cons of digital technologies and what they should do in this regard.

Amidst that confusion an unknown group of unknown people started working and produced the standards everybody knows. I am not afraid to admit that MPEG standards are a sort of “intellectual exercise”. But when there is great confusion under heaven because of the tight combination of standards to market players’ interests, being an intellectual exercise is a strength, not a weakness, because it is the only approach that can work when the others have stopped working. The MPEG standards are digital machines that process bits and the industry has come to know what it means to have such machines. The strength of an MPEG standard – an intellectual exercise – is that those digital machines are designed as digital machines that serve the interest of many market players.

Is the “intellectual exercise” approach applicable to DMP and the current world of competing DRM solutions and standards? I believe it does and also that it is the only one that can work. In spite of their daunting complexity as tools to solve market place problems the components that make up a DRM system can be designed to satisfy the needs of different market players, without the pretence – as in the case of MPEG – of telling users of the standard how they should configure the pieces to suit their needs.

 

However, the Use Cases on which IDP-1 is based reflect the fact that the DMP's membership contains no representation from major content owners

I would like to dispute this statement on two counts. The first is that DMP does have several members who manage content rights and provide content services. The second is that the selection of Use Cases has been done with great care to provide a broad range of examples, beyond the typical heavy-protection use cases for which there are still 3 out of 8 examples (Home Distribution #1 and #2 and Smart Retailer).

The point DMP makes with its selection of Use Cases is that DRM can provide support to new business models (Open Release and Open Search), can lower the entry threshold to little known content (Internet Distribution that should remind you of Chris Anderson’s Long Tail) and can, against all expectations, even enhance privacy (Personal Photography).

 

First of all, not much in these specs truly addresses the problem of DRM interoperability.  As Dr. Chiariglione well knows, just publishing another DRM spec, no matter how broad, does not solve the problem.

It is all a matter of agreeing on the meaning of terms. An example of lack of interoperability is provided by the consumer who purchases a piece of content and discovers that its does not “play” on his machine. This can be remedied in two ways

  1. The consumer accesses a service that “adapts” the purchased content to the consumer’s machine

  2. The content is released and the consumer’s machine manufactured according to a common specification.

IDP-1 has been developed having in mind the latter even though nothing prevents anybody from using the IDP-1 specification to implement the former (we had a proposal in this direction as a response to the PAV Call for Proposals). Actually IDP-2 will make further steps in this direction by defining an REL “Broadcast Profile” designed to allow compatibility with TV Anytime’s RMPI

Sure, a specification does not make a market, but I claim that a market takes a long time – if ever – to be formed without a specification. But the DMP specification has what others don’t have: it is open and not “owned” by anybody, it is a toolkit specification vs. being a take-it-or-leave-it monolith and it is industry agnostic vs. being an industry-sponsored specification with strings attached when used by other industries. In other words it is the only DRM specification that is applicable to a multi-industry environment that is what digital media are meant to be.

You certainly remember my first slide at the Jupiter conference one year ago when I quoted my definition of standard: codified agreement between parties who recognise the advantage of all doing certain things in a certain way. I am sure that the market will soon recognise the advantage for all doing the DRM things the DMP way.

 

In other words: who is going to pay for all that technology?

I would like to thank you for you asking the question because otherwise I would have asked the question myself when responding to your comment above.

Right, this is the question. We largely live in a world of analogue media or digital media that behave like analogue media, where interoperability is the rule and the monetary value of media is known. Now comes the need for DRM and everybody think: “this is the time I redesign the world to suit my needs”. Hence the need for interoperability #1 before (i.e. adaptation). Then people start adding up the numbers and they discover that at 99 apiece there is very little money to be made for everybody dealing with music on the web.

I believe that the DMP approach of targeting interoperability #2 (i.e. common specification) is the only way to achieve the economies of scale that are required to make this epochal transformation of media from analogue content to governed content. At such a momentous juncture it would be wise to remember the old adage “keep it simple” instead of dreaming to herd the DRM cats by means of adaptations and conversions.

The DMP specification provides the means to make this transformation a commercial success in the interest of all parties involved – including creators and consumers. The time for divergence in technologies is not now, when DRM has to be established, but in the future.

 

We continue to like the Coral Consortium's approach to DRM interoperability better

I have nothing to say about taste, but I hope I have explained why I think the DMP approach is better and this not just on the basis of idealistic grounds, but of simple economic considerations.