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Intertrust ‘universal’ DRM scheme coming in six months

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DRM specialist Intertrust will release its would-be standard generic digital media copy-protection system within six months, a senior Philips executive says.

Intertrust was acquired by Philips and Sony jfor $453 million just over a year ago. The two joint developers of the original CD audio specification bought the company to enable them to define a standard scheme for protecting digital content.

Intertrust owns a significant portfolio of DRM patents which it had largely failed to capitalise upon as an independent entity, despite a pre-acquisition $28.5 million licensing deal with Sony.

That effort is apparently coming to fruition. "We hope to have an interoperable system between now and six months," Ruud Peters, chief executive of Philips' intellectual property operation, told Reuters.

The key word is 'interoperable'. Sony and Philips want a DRM system that can be supported by content creators, software developers and hardware manufacturers safe in the knowledge that the technology isn't owned by one company.

With the new system, it will be possible to acquire content can be acquired from any (legal) source and play it back on any hardware, Philips claims. That's certainly not the case today.

Peters said the Sony/Philips subsidiary had already signed up a large number of consumer electronics companies and content providers who will support the technology. "When we launch we want to give guarantees that it will be sufficiently supported," he said.

Intertrust plans to make its system reasonably accessible to licensees. That should boost support for the system. However, with their headstart, Microsoft, Apple and all the other companies using their own DRM technologies will relegate the Intertrust system to one more among many, rather than the de facto standard.

If Intertrust is to become more than Sony and Philips' in-house DRM provider, it will need some big names in that field to rally to its cause. Alas, the best known players, Apple and Microsoft, both have strong vested interests in the status quo. ®

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