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Thomson takes 33% stake in MS-backed DRM developer

Vodafone selects Open Mobile Alliance's alternative

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France's Thomson has taken 33 per cent a stake in ContentGuard, the 'universal' digital rights management technology provider backed by Microsoft and Time Warner.

The deal will see Thomson licensing ContentGuard's DRM system for usage throughout the world. ContentGuard's technology, Extensible Rights Markup Language (XrML), is an XML-derived scheme for content protection that its developer is pitching as a possible basis for a standard DRM system.

It's that emphasis on universality that worried the European Commission when Microsoft and Time Warner acquired ContentGuard from its founder, Xerox, last April. The EC formally objected to the ContentGuard acquisition earlier this month having begun an investigation into it in August.

With Microsoft already in contention with the EC over alleged anti-competitive behaviour - though the two cases are not directly connected - a move to reduce its 50 per cent stake in ContentGuard could well be offered as an olive branch to the Commission. The Thomson deal allows the European company to name two ContentGuard board members.

ContentGuard's technology has already been adopted by Microsoft as a component of its own DRM system. Sony is the company's other key signing - the Japanese giant licensed ContentGuard's technology in December 2002.

In separate news, Vodafone said it had licensed developer CoreMedia's DRM technology to protected content delivered across its Vodafone Live! 3G service, which launched earlier this month.

CoreMedia's DRM system follows the framework laid down by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), a consortium of mobile phone manufacturers and networks seeking to define standard technology specifications geared toward interoperability. Like ContentGuard, the OMA views its DRM system as a potential 'universal' DRM technology. Vodafone's implementation of the OMA's DRM spec. is said to be the biggest roll-out of the technology to date.

The OMA unveiled version 2.0 of its DRM spec. in February this year. ®

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