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Europe moves to block DRM ambitions

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Mario Monti, the outgoing European competition commissioner, has told Microsoft that "the time for settlement has passed" on the anti-trust charges the company faces.

He ruled out further negotiations on the terms of the court order imposed in March. This requires that the company pay a fine of €497m; offer a version of Windows without its Media Player and open its protocols to rivals. The fine has been suspended while Microsoft appealed the decision.

Speaking yesterday in New York Monti said his staff had worked for a settlement, but that it had not been possible to reach terms acceptable to all parties. The final outcome of the case is now something "for the courts to decide", he told Bloomberg.

Judge Bo Vesterdorf heard Microsoft's appeal last week in the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg. He will issue his judgment within two months.

In a separate action, the European Commission is investigating the software giant's proposed acquisition of DRM (Digital Rights Management) firm ContentGuard.

ContentGuard, founded by Xerox with the financial support of Microsoft, holds several key DRM patents, which it says cover all rights-expression markup languages. This claim has not been tested in court, but if it were upheld, ContentGuard would effectively own DRM.

The EC is concerned that if Microsoft is allowed to buy the company, it will have too strong a hold on the DRM market, Wired reports. The commission will make announce its decision on 6 Jan, 2005. ®

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