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EC ends Microsoft DRM probe

Investigation over now ContentGuard has three owners

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The European Commission has ended its investigation into the ownership of DRM technology developer ContentGuard.

The probe was put on hold in December 2004 pending the sale of a 33 per cent stake in ContentGuard to French firm Thomson by joint owners Microsoft and Time Warner.

The EC decided to take a closer look into ContentGuard's ownership in August 2004, four months after Xerox sold the DRM company to Time Warner and Microsoft. EC anti-trust officials were worried that control of a key digital media technology, DRM, could allow the owners to exert undue pressure on the developing online music market.

The sale of a third of the company to Thomson was announced in November last year and was widely seen as a way of sidestepping the EC. Indeed, the Commission today said the Thomson deal was enough to take the ContentGuard acquisition out of its remit.

"Through the conjunction of Thomson's acquisition of an equity stake, and of changes in ContentGuard's governance structure, no shareholder will have control over ContentGuard," the EC said in a statement. "Thus this transaction is not subject to EU merger rules." ®

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