TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Expensive Anti-Piracyware Threatens Open Standard

Expensive Anti-Piracyware Threatens Open Standard

Lisa Minter (
25 Feb 2005 08:36:13 -0800

By Lucas van Grinsven, European Technology Correspondent

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A handful of technology companies are
overcharging for anti-piracy software needed for digital music stores
on the Internet, preventing the emergence of open standards,
electronics goods makers said on Friday.

Several consumer electronics makers balk at the $1 charge for
anti-piracy technology proposed by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA),
they told Reuters. The OMA is a group of handset makers, wireless
telecoms operators and other technology companies.

Mobile phone makers and consumer electronics makers said $1 per
device is too high a price only to protect music and video against
illegal copying. They will not be able to recoup that money through
revenues expected from digital entertainment.

"This kind of price is certainly unreasonable. It's not in proportion
to the economic value," said one senior executive at a top five mobile
phone maker who declined to be named.

He points out that last year alone 684 million mobile phones were
sold. If handset makers had put anti-piracy protection software in
those phones, the $684 million in royalties would have exceeded
total digital music sales on the Web last year.

A senior executive at a global top three consumer electronics maker
agreed that "this is too expensive." Consumer electronics companies
are keen to make devices interoperable with mobile phones, so
consumers can play tracks stored on their phone on their home TV or
stereo, or vice versa.

They are reluctant to sound too harsh, however, because the irony is
that they desperately need the OMA's anti-piracy technology which is
the first open standard that can be used by all electronics goods
makers. Other technologies are owned and controlled by individual
companies such as Apple for its iTunes Music Store and Microsoft.

The man in charge of the OMA's anti-piracy working group which has put
together the open standard, stresses the technology itself has been
accepted by all. The problem lies with the price charged by the
companies which own the patents.

"The terms (for OMA DRM 1.0) have kicked up a lot of dust. People are
debating if these are reasonable terms," said Jan van der Meer,
chairman of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) working group at the


"DRM is a hot item. There are many opportunities for an open
(anti-piracy) system. There's a real need for it, but the terms need
to be reasonable," Van der Meer added.

In order for an industry standard to be open, it should be available
to everyone at fair and reasonable terms.

Electronics goods makers hope that MPEG LA will be willing to cut the
terms, which it still calls "proposals."

MPEG LA is the organization which has pooled essential anti-piracy
patents owned by five companies: InterTrust and ContentGuard, two very
small but powerful DRM companies, plus consumer electronics giants
Sony Corp and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd from Japan, and
Dutch giant Philips Electronics.

Handset makers Nokia and Sony Ericsson and consumer electronics
producers Sony and Philips declined to comment on the issue
specifically. MPEG LA was not immediately available to comment.

Robert Ashcroft, senior vice president Sony Network Application &
Content Service Sector, said in general terms that his company is on a
"strategic direction to find open and interoperable services and

The issue is particularly delicate, because it emerges one week after
a surprise opening up of music technology companies related to
Microsoft's and Sony's online music stores. They would both support
the OMA's standards for music compression and piracy-protection

It was seen as an industry breakthrough, and a victory for consumers
who would not be restricted to a small set of portable music players,
such as Apple's iPods for iTunes tracks.

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