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Tech News (more headlines) 08-20-2003

GartnerG2 Says Digital Media Publishers Must Have Portable Digital Rights Management Standards Or They Risk Alienating Consumers

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Digital rights management (DRM) is crucial for media companies in protecting their copyrighted materials, but they must improve its portability so they don't continue to alienate consumers. Protecting digital content requires a multifaceted approach comprising technology, consumer education and the law, according to a joint study by GartnerG2, a research service of Gartner, Inc., and The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

"Given that content control and copy protection remain top priorities for digital media publishers, DRM must be intelligently deployed on a mass scale," said James Brancheau, vice president of media industry research at GartnerG2. "To avoid alienating consumers, DRM standards need to be flexible enough to protect the content, to be replaced when they are hacked, to accommodate changes in consumer demand, and to support the tenets of fair use, which can be disrupted by new technologies."

The difficulties associated with DRM have been the use of technology to enforce copyright laws and protecting intellectual property at the expense of innovation, either by stifling it or penalizing it.

"The crisis of digital media is the most pressing issue in cyberspace," said John Palfrey, executive director of The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. "To date, there has been too much rhetoric and too little serious inquiry into the best way to move past the current stalemate in the digital media space."

One way to address the difficulties that digital media companies are having with DRM is to adopt an overarching approach to content distribution. GartnerG2 analysts have termed this approach "perfectly portable content." This is a concept intended to balance the need for access versus control of digital content distributed on the Web.

GartnerG2 analysts said perfectly portable content allows copyrighted content to move from device to device without uncontrolled copying. It is content for which there is, at any point, only one instance (more than one instance is possible, but it depends on the rules established by the copyright holder or publisher.) where it can be viewed on a PC, PDA or any other device capable of being authenticated. In displaying the content and authenticating the digital certificates used by DRM technologies, content can be protected from piracy while supporting portability and fair use.

"Perfectly portable content can meet publishers' needs to control unauthorized and uncompensated copies while allowing consumers a sense of ownership and the ability to engage in fair use manipulation of their legitimate digital content," said Mike McGuire, research director at GartnerG2.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and GartnerG2 are hosting a one-day seminar to fully explore ways to maintain the equilibrium between technology providers, copyright holders and creators, media companies, and consumers. The event, titled "Digital Media in Cyberspace: The Legislation and its Business Effects," will take place September 18 at the Ames Courtroom at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass.

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