Fraunhofer Institute Develops “Fair Use” DRM System ***Update***

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, creators of the phenominally successful MP3 music format, has developed a content protection extension to MP3 – and it could end the controversy over file sharing.

The Light Weight Digital Rights Management (LWDRM) system is based on a principle which has been used in video and audio media for some time – and in fact is already built into Microsoft’s Window Media platform.

Users pay for an audio file and can use it as they wish, but if they want to transfer it to another device or give it away to someone else, they must download a certificate from a certification body. Because the file is signed with your identity, if several thousand copies of an MP3 you once bought are found on the internet, then they know whose door to knock on.

We really think that Fraunhofer are missing a trick here. Rather than just flagging who once owned the file, why not make it so that an unauthorised recipient must download and pay for a license before they can play the media? This is already implemented in various ways in Windows Media, and we’re a but baffled why the technique isn’t employed here.

The system was originally developed for MPEG4, but has adapted it for use with MP3. Fraunhofer say that LWDRM will allow users fair use of the media they have bought whilst protecting the artists’ and record labels’ investments.

To support adoption of the new system, Fraunhofer aim to launch their own online shop, which will be free to small labels.

Fraunhofer on LWDRM

Fraunhofer on the MP3 standard – recommended reading!

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?