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Phone DRM too expensive, say carriers

Fragmentation looms

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Mobile phone networks dissatisfaction with the copyright interests has gone public. The association representing the GSM standard, with over a billion users worldwide, has declared that the proposed tariff for DRM is too high and is unworkable. Members of the GSM Association think that the per-transaction model agreed by the MPEG Licensing Authority - and proposed to the Open Mobile Alliance standards group - harms users in the long run.

The proposal put to OMA by the MPEG LA in January requires carriers to pay one per cent of transactions and $1 per handset back to the DRM patent holders, which include ContentGuard, Intertrust, Matsushita, Philips and Sony.

In a statement, GSMA CEO Rob Conway described "significant discontent" with the licensing proposal, and characterized the plan as "impractical, excessive and short-sighted". The GSMA objects to both the ‘per transaction’ fee that carriers must pay, as well as the $1 a handset DRM fee.

"Based on frank responses from operators throughout the world, our Board understands that members are being 'forced away' from the OMA DRM standards by this unworkable licensing scheme", added GSMA chairman Craig Ehrlich.

Erlich predicted that the carriers would use cheaper incompatible DRM schemes and consequently the market would fragment. Incompatibilities between DRM schemes from Microsoft, Apple and Real plague the 'legitimate' PC download market, which has failed to make an impact on 'illegal' file sharing currently being discussed by the US Supreme Court.

Carriers are more reluctant to introduce DRM than their counterparts in the PC business. Verizon went to court to protect the identity of file sharers, and Orange has been vocal about insisting that users can move their music from PC to phone and back again. The networks see music as a way to drive related transactions, such as ticket sales. ®

Related stories

DRM comes to mobiles
Sony Ericsson launches 'Walkman'
Mobile DRM levy hits operators where it hurts
Phone biz agrees on $1 levy
Killing an iPod - harder than it looks?

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