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Time Warner invests in ContentGuard

Funding for DRM standards process

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ContentGuard, the company that has almost single-handedly driven DRM interoperability work at ISO, MPEG and at the Content Reference Forum, has taken on board investment from Time Warner and more money from existing investor Microsoft.

Time Warner, Microsoft and ContentGuard have purchased substantially all of the ownership that was held by Xerox which was the source of ContentGuard's original technology. Xerox will retain a small equity interest in the company.

With buddies like Time Warner and Microsoft, the company is politically well positioned to continue to lead in the DRM standards process. Faultline has speculated in the past that DRM interoperability is the best way around the impasse between Consumer Electronics (CE) manufacturers reluctance to pay homage to Microsoft owned technology. Now they can write their own DRM systems to arms length public standards and have no complaint about co-existing in a DRM regime shared with Microsoft technology.

Michael Miron, CEO of ContentGuard said: "Together with Microsoft and Time Warner's input into our company's direction, we can accelerate the pace of development for the new standards and technologies that we champion."

It will be lost on few scholars of digital media that the Microsoft Time Warner axis now has colossal influence over standards in DRM but also in codecs and digital media players. Recently Time Warner was voted a vice-chairmanship seat at the DVD Forum which is driving the future standard for high density Blue Laser DVDs, just as the Forum passed a vote to include the Microsoft codec in the Blue Laser standard.

Even if Microsoft can't convince CE makers to play ball with this "arms length" DRM relationship, it will be able to use the move to say that at least it's tried, and get the studios onside to force the CE companies' arms.

ContentGuard's portfolio of DRM patents originated at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Technologies developed by ContentGuard include XrML (eXtensible rights Markup Language), which is now the basis of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved MPEG REL, the standard rights expression language for assigning usage rights and conditions to any digital object.

The amount of investment made and the extent of shareholding held by Time Warner and Microsoft has not been revealed but one statement suggested that apart form a management holding, the two giants effectively own the company.

© Copyright 2004 Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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