Feeds

IBM makes late DRM bid

xCP system backed by Intel, Matsushita and Toshiba

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

IBM has thrown its hat into the ring as a late entrant into efforts to build sane and effective digital rights management. This week the company announced xCP - its eXtensible Content Protection system - at the US National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) event in Las Vegas.

IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose has been quietly working on DRM systems for as long as we can remember, certainly for ten years, but when it first started out it mistakenly thought that the idea was only to build secure systems for the film-making process, with big ticket front ends, neglecting the mass market. With xCP it has gone back and re-engineered the entire idea for the Internet, peer to peer, piracy rich, age and come up with a credible architecture.

xCP is a one-way process for dropping not one, but multiple layers of encryption keys onto intelligent media playing devices in the home, be they set-tops, TiVos or other DVRs, Windows machines, MP3 players, digital TVs or DVD players. If the devices have a disk drive then they act as servers for the encryption keys and control the rights of the other, tethered devices.

The devices don’t get a say in which encryption key they sign up for, so this is a much easier scheme to bring into a home than previous PKI systems that have segregated public and private keys and which require a two way communication process to set them up. Now when a piece of film or music is copied from a commercial server, the keys can be automatically calculated and set working. When the content is copied, the keys are copied, until the content runs out of allocated rights.

There is one encryption key for all the devices to talk to each other and make content copies to one another, and another encryption key for every piece of media that can be used across all of the devices on the network. The second encryption key is decoded by the first and used to play music or film.

There is complex algorithmic calculation, which can be regularly re-calibrated when the network changes, and none of the keys, those protecting the media or those used for the devices to talk to each other, ever need to be known by a content purchaser, who just needs to what rights they have bought.

The scheme has been described in Association of Computer Machinery papers throughout last year, and IBM has now taken it into its marketing phase and used NAB to try and get support for it.

Sophisticated system

The IBM system seems more sophisticated than other similar systems from companies like Microsoft, which allow very simple rules relating to the number of copies that can be made, or the device types that a piece of media may go onto, and thereafter prevents copying completely.

In effect anyone that signs up to the IBM way of doing things will be building a set of inter-linked devices and will be able to buy any amount of rights for those devices that the content owner can imagine to sell.

The big issues for IBM now are political and financial. Which partners can it rely on right away, is the system going to be interoperable with other systems already out there, and what is it planning to charge device makers to run this scheme?

These are questions that IBM hasn’t addressed publicly but it has a strong relationships with Sony and Toshiba (working on the Cell chip manufacture together), and this project is expected to be offered in partnership with Intel, Matsushita, and Toshiba. The three founded 4C, an organization which licenses content protection technologies including the Content Protection System Architecture these four worked out in 2000 which the xCP Cluster Protocol was developed to be consistent with.

But IBM has not really described any process or language which will provide the syntax for stating the rights which are managed in this system, nor one that states accurately, different types of copy transactions, so it might easily adopt the ContentGuard work that has recently become an ISO standard and which might make interoperability with existing systems easy.

The big thing currently missing from the IBM equation is a big studio that is onside, so keep your eyes and ears open for such an announcement. Both Disney and Warner Brothers seemed to have backed Microsoft DRM, so it’s unlikely to be one of those.

© 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.

Related stories

Nokia leads bid to control mobile DRM standards
Europe demands open-to-all DRM tech
ISO applauded for MPEG 21 DRM blessing
MP3 DRM to demo at CeBIT
HP gets deeper into DRM
Why wireless will end piracy and doom DRM and TCPA - Jim Griffin

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Big Content outs piracy hotbeds: São Paulo, Beijing ... TORONTO?
MPAA calls Canadians a bunch of bootlegging movie thieves
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
Hungary's internet tax cannot be allowed to set a precedent, says EC
More protests planned against giga-tariff for Tuesday evening
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.