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Microsoft denies Zune copyright cop

We play both sides of the IP fence

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Innovation '08 Microsoft’s senior policy counsel for copyright and trademark has firmly denied that Redmond will slip its very own copyright cop into the Zune music player. But he acknowledges the company is particularly sympathetic to the copyright battles of music labels and other publishers.

Last week, a New York Times blog reported that Ballmer and company were working on a Zune copyright cop in tandem with media giant NBC Universal. But today, during a panel discussion at eBay’s headquarters in San Jose, California, Microsoft’s Jule Sigall shot that notion down.

"It’s not true," he said, speaking alongside other industry big-wigs at the Media Access Project's Innovation '08, the first of three panels meant to explore US internet policy.

But he did tell the audience that Microsoft is careful to play both sides of the proverbial copyright fence. "We’ve got money on both sides," said Sigall, an senior official in the U.S. Copyright Office before joining Ballmer and crew.

Indeed, Microsoft depends on its own software copyrights, but it also sells consumer electronic devices – such as Xbox and the Zune – that may or may not contribute to digital piracy.

"We have a very strong and active copyright-based business that relies on very active anti-piracy efforts - a business model that relies on proprietary license models like copyright, where we ask people to pay us for a copy of the software we provide them," Sigall explained. "On the other hand, we have very large and growing – and future - businesses that license content, that deliver content of other people to consumers."

The end result, according to Sigall, is that Redmond works hard to satisfy the IP needs of the music and movie biz. "Generally, we care about copyright when a copyright holder like NBC Universal says ‘What can we do to protect our copyright when our content goes through things like the Xbox and Zune?’" he continued. "We think very hard about how we can protect their interests."

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