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Now's the time to protect copyright – Diamond exec

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Diamond Multimedia today announced it is to incorporate InterTrust's rights management technology into its Rio MP3 player -- or at least future versions of the device. Diamond already has an agreement with Liquid Audio to support the latter's music format -- and presumably the rights management technology that goes with it -- in a future version of Rio, believed to be scheduled for release this summer. The Liquid Audio deal was announced some months ago, with nothing new discussed in the interim, so Diamond can hardly be said to be rushing to sign up new formats and technologies for Rio. That suggests the InterTrust deal is more strategic. Either Diamond's line on the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) is telling it that InterTrust is in the running for support, it's worried about a tailing off of support for Rio while everyone waits for the SDMI to unveil its own system or it wants to ward off further action from the record industry over Rio's support for MP3 files from any Tom, Dick or Harriet. "We believe that now is the time to embrace the broader issue of security in our devices," said David Watkins, head of Diamond's RioPort division, signalling the company's interesting change of tune. Why now? Diamond has yet to answer that question. Certainly, further action from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) seems unlikely since it lost the case last time and it would hardly wish to prosecute a member of the SDMI. More likely is the concern over third-party support, particularly with Sony's entry into the game through the announced (sort of) Netman solid-state Walkman. Sony, of course, has its own copyright protection system, to be built into IBM's major record label-supported Electronic Music Management System. If music producers and publishers are hanging back from Diamond's RioPort portal, set up to promote the device with content users could download, because they're concerned they will be left in the cold when the SDMI finally reports, that might well persuade Diamond to stress its support for secure music with a deal with a company like InterTrust. And don't forget Diamond is very eager to make RioPort pay, not least because it's losing money in its traditional graphics card market (see Diamond MP3 plan still to pay off). So why choose InterTrust? Well maybe it's winning converts among the SDMI's committees and members. And one of InterTrust's "core partners" is one Reciprocal, also a rights management software specialist, and in the news recently for its work with Microsoft on the latter's digital music management system (for which it received a $15 million investment). In addition to the SDMI, InterTrust sits on the MPEG Forum (one of whose technology leaders is Dr Leonardo Chiariglione, who is now... executive director of the SDMI), the Open Platform Initiative for Multimedia Access (OPIMA) and the DVD Copy Protection Technology Working Group. Those are some major pies it has its fingers in, which would again suggest it has more than a little influence on the SDMI. This little-known company clearly has some impressive connections. Whether they will ultimately do much for Diamond too remains to be seen -- or indeed whether they will even help InterTrust. Connections like these don't mean success -- we'd never suggest there's an old pals' network operating here -- but they will smooth the way a little. ®

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