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RealNetworks preps format-agnostic DRM

Helix beta

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ComputerWire logo RealNetworks Inc plans to help prevent theft of digital content with the beta release of its digital rights management system, Helix DRM.

Traditionally, film studios and music companies have been less than keen to distribute their content in electronic form due to the ease with which it can be copied and distributed, usually via the internet. Digital rights management is seen as the solution, but so far has been limited in terms of the number of formats supported.

In an attempt to fill this void, RealNetworks has unveiled Helix DRM, designed to be format-agnostic protection for the delivery of content to PCs, home appliances and mobile devices. The technology supports the emerging video standard MPEG-4 and H.263; audio formats MP3, AAC and Narrowband AMR audio; and its RealAudio and RealVideo streaming formats.

"It used to be that content owners would have separate DRM for each format that they wanted to support, and consumer electronics makers would have to implement a separate DRM engine to decrypt those files on their devices," said Dan Sheeran, vice president of media systems for the Seattle, Washington-based software company.

"This, for the first time, enables content owners to deliver secure content to any PC or non-PC device using a single DRM and gives device makers a single engine to support all formats," Sheeran said.

Companies that will use Helix DRM include Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, Starz On Demand and Triggerstreet.com, as well as music label EMI Recorded Music (which includes the EMI, Capitol, Virgin and other record labels).

The news comes at a time when RealNetworks is currently involved in a battle with software giant Microsoft Corp, over their respective media players. Microsoft is bent on ruling the digital media revolution, and has potentially kicked off a royalty price war with RealNetworks, as it and its rivals strive to be the de facto format for streaming media on the next wave of internet access devices.

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