Microsoft gets tough with DRM

20 Jan 2003

Digital rights management (DRM) has returned to the agenda with Microsoft this weekend unveiling new software aimed at helping record companies cut down on the unauthorised copying of CDs and DVDs.

The new software, entitled Windows Media Data Session Toolkit, enables music labels to lay songs onto a copy-controlled CD in multiple layers, one that would permit normal playback on a stereo and a PC.

The PC layer, laid digitally on the same disc, can be modified by the content provider, so that they could prevent, for example, burning songs onto another CD.

Microsoft is understood to have invested some €500 million on digital rights management technologies that look set to be eagerly snapped up by an ailing recording industry stung by the free distribution of music through sites like Gnutella and Morpheus as well as a growing rip and burn culture amongst music, games and movie buyers.

In recent months, Microsoft launched forays into digitally protecting its own software products over the net, by unveiling its Plus Digital Media Edition (DME) software at the major Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The Plus DME software is effectively an add-on pack for Windows XP, enabling computer users to enhance Windows XP’s digital media capabilities for storing and editing digital photographs as well as enjoying better digital music. The launch of Plus DME coincides with the unveiling of Windows Movie Maker 2 and Windows Media Player 9.

Under the new system, Plus DME is protected by product activation whereby consumers will have to enter a 25-key code to install the software and then activate it over the internet.

By John Kennedy