The Digital Media Manifesto



L. Chiariglione


New proposed draft of "Digital Media Manifesto"




Executive summary

Digital Media are enabled by a collection of very powerful advanced technologies. By now they should have generated manifold creative, business, culture and enjoyment opportunities. This has not yet happened.

The Digital Media Manifesto identifies the actions required to achieve a fuller use of Digital Media to the benefit of players on the value chain, including the end user. It provides the basis for the establishment of the Digital Media Project, a not-for-profit organisation with the goal of executing the identified actions.

Table of content








Overcoming the Digital Media dilemma




Major actions




Policy actions




Mapping of rights traditionally enjoyed by users to the DM space




Phasing out analogue legacies




Deployment of broadband access




Improving development of and access to standards




Technical actions




Interoperable DRM platforms




Interoperable end-user devices




End-to-end conformance assessment




The Digital Media Project








Work plan and deliverables












Benefits of the Digital Media Project





1. Introduction

After R&D investments made over several decades Digital Technologies have spawned a number of huge and profitable new industries such as Information Technology, Micro-electronics and Digital Communication.

These technologies have also been employed in the media industry and Compact Disc and Digital Versatile Disc can be mentioned as examples of successful consumer use. They have provided the content industry with new distribution media for their content, the consumer electronics industry with new opportunities to innovate and sell devices and as a result end users could get a better audio and visual experience.

While innovative adaptations of digital technologies over the past few years have led to trials of new business models that have enticed end users by offering new experiences - the Digital Media (DM) experience – the sad fact is that they are either not profitable or else are being challenged in the courts by vested interests. The result is that, unlike what has happened for other digital technology-driven industries, DM is in a phase of stagnation. This can change and it can be expected that end users will adopt DM if they are be offered an experience that is comparable to today's, is legitimate and properly priced. This is the root of the new vision.

The Digital Media Manifesto proposes a vision to make the DM experience legitimate, economically rewarding on a global scale for a multiplicity of players and satisfactory for end users. However, there are significant and challenging obstacles to overcome before the vision is achieved.

For example, if such hurdles as recording device and blank media levies are phased out, the slow pace of introduction of digital broadband access is accelerated and interoperable DRM platforms are deployed, it can be expected that providers of content, services and devices will have greater incentive to exploit DM. Likewise, if  end-user rights as they were traditionally enjoyed can be mapped to the DM space and achieved to the satisfaction of all parties and an ecosystem of technically compatible DM will be offered come available, open DM access devices equipped with simple, effective and scalable interfaces, will become openly available for end users to enjoy.

The Digital Media Manifesto proposes specific actions including the establishment of the Digital Media Project, a not-for-profit organisation as the vehicle to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way to reaching the objective. The action plans recognise the interrelated complexities that need to be overcome and the need for urgent simultaneous progress on technical and policy issues.

2. Overcoming the Digital Media dilemma

The creation and distribution of media content is a major global economic activity, as is the manufacturing related to it. The worldwide value of these amounts to several hundred billion $/€ p.a. Their impact on society, business and the personal lives of billions of people can hardly be overstated.

Analogue Media

Although media come in different forms, they share the common feature of being immaterial. Although physical devices are required to create, move/store and consume (CMSC) media, it exists on a fundamentally separate level from its physical carriers. The older technologies for these carriers - now referred to as "analogue" - were employed throughout history to CMSC all media until about 20 years ago. Traditionally, the tight connection of media with the CMSC technology employed was a major feature of the media itself. Examples include vinyl recording, broadcasting in the VHF/UHF band, cable television distribution and VHS recording.

The physical nature of analogue CMSC technologies played a major role in shaping media businesses, imposing unique and various limitations on cost, delivery, consumption, etc. This union between the technology and its immaterial content also shaped public policy and legislation, for example laws concerning intellectual property and usage rights such as "fair use".

Digitised Media

Starting 20 years ago and accelerating through the last decade, digital technologies have been employed for media "digitisation". The digital technologies offer radically different and easier ways to CMSC media. Their most noteworthy features are the ability to replicate media perfectly an unlimited number of times and the ability to detach media from its tight union with physical carriers. These features can exercise a substantial positive impact on the way media business is conducted. At the same time, they also “disable” the historically effective ways to exploit media economically.

In the early years the negative impact – business wise – of the first example of digitised consumer media, the compact disc (CD), was reduced because duplication, always technically possible, was extremely hard and costly. The same has happened with DVD, another more recent and successful example of digitised media. Progress of technology, however, has gradually made copying of digitised media easy and inexpensive.

As a consequence various instances of legislation have been widely adopted in different countries to achieve such goals as setting a limit to the number of copies permitted from a digital original, imposing a levy on blank recording media and devices to compensate for the economic damage suffered by rights holders from private copies, and regulating some aspects of the use of such technologies through Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems that give rights holders the technical means to control access to media.

Digital Media

CD and DVD, while excellent and successful examples of digitised media, generally only provide “enhancements” of functionalities already available with analogue technologies. On the other hand, a collection of digital technologies such as computers (e.g. PC), compression (e.g. MP3), network file sharing (e.g. P2P) and digital recording (PVR) have shown that digital technologies have the potential to alter most of the premises on which the traditional media business is founded.

Far from eagerly embracing the opportunities, existing value chain players are frightened  by, among others, the magnitude of the changes required by the adoption of these technologies and by doubts about the existence of sustainable business models. Some new players on the value chain have seized the opportunities but usually discover that the conditions in which they operate are complicated and disrupted  by ambiguous legal settings. The perceived difficulty is that although end users are the ones who get a great new Digital Media (DM) experience – it is achieved in the context of potential abuse of other people’s Intellectual Property.

The legal solution

Established media companies have responded by legal actions on two fronts. The first is to start law suits against those whom they see as infringing on their rights and the second is to request law-makers to mandate ad-hoc blocking technologies in consumption devices.

Many believe that this  legal approach cannot provide a solution in the long run because the flexibility of digital technologies is such that there will always be people who will succeed in going round whatever legal ruling is issued and because DM are a total paradigm shift and it is an illusion to attempt to counter its effects with ad-hoc technology stop gaps mandated by law.

The technology solution

The technology front has not been idle and has been actively advocating DRM as the solution to the problems surrounding use of DM. However, there are concerns from old and new value-chain players and end users that explain why the use of DRM is not advancing. Existing value-chain business players are unconvinced that it is a solution because DRM does not control the capability of unintended re-use of content already released (e.g. copying CDs, ripping music CDs to generate MP3 files), must be applied to all new content to be effective, may need radically new distribution mechanisms and requires the deployment of radically new consumption devices. New value chain players, on the other hand, fear to be disenfranchised because the selected DRM may contain some disabling features. Lastly, end users who of course are also members of the value chain, are opposed because they can no longer do things they assumed it was their right to do, fear a loss of their privacy, find DRM cumbersome to use and must often use different devices for similar services.

The stalemate

The economic and social potential of a dynamic DM future is vast. The absence of practical solutions leaves everybody in a damaging stalemate.

Economic: Indeed DM can become the driver of economic development in a multitude of industrial domains, e.g. networks, devices and software.
Networks are the natural vehicle to move media, and the the slow progress of broadband deployment is one of the causes of the DM stalemate and vice versa.
Similarly devices are needed to CMSC a variety of media, and the DM stalemate is one of the causes of the stagnating CE and IT markets.
Likewise software is what makes the difference with DM, and the DM stalemate has also contributed to and been caused by the recent poor innovation record of the software industry.
Social: DM is the next quantum step in the ability of humans to communicate that can benefit society, business and individuals.
Society, because DM have a unique capability to improve human ability to learn and access to DM stored in publicly managed repositories like libraries can boost the general level of education;
Business, because DM can offer possibilities to communicate with other business partners or customers in a way that was never even conceived before;
Individuals, because they are potential creators to be discovered, in addition to consumers, and DM gives them the opportunity to do so.
DM also is the vehicle that can promote the creation of new forms of Intellectual Property by multiplying the opportunities to profitably extend one of the noblest and most valued human activities – creation of intellectual works.

Not acting to eliminate the stalemate has continuing direct negative consequences, such as letting the concept of “content is there for people to grab” to take further root. Another negative consequence is the increasing drive for radical and yet unrealistic legal approaches. Still another is continuing support and possible extensions of an unjust tax that seems designed to penalise the innocent and reward the guilty and at same time militates against the efforts required for better solutions.

There is too much at stake to simply bow to the apparently inevitable and just hope that the mess will be sorted out one day

Acting on two fronts

So far efforts to break the DM stalemate have failed because of the belief that law alone or technology alone could do the job. The entanglement is such that the underlying problems are not going to be resolved separately anytime soon. In reality what is needed is synergistic actions on both fronts.

On the policy and legal side, new policies should be determined and legacy policies be revised, such as:

On the technical side, any DRM platform accepted for wide usage and adoption should provide the following main features:

The benefits

The expected major beneficiaries from the implementing these policy and technical actions will be:

Public authorities can pass on the general and specific benefits of DM to their citizens
Rights holders can release content in a controlled way that will let them flexibly express their business rules
Service providers can provide competing offerings of digital content, according to rights expressed by the service, over satellite, cable, UHF bands, fixed networks, package media etc.
Other value-chain roles can provide valued-added services because they will be given technical access to the platform
Manufacturers can create ecosystems of competing devices to CMSC protected content and purchasable by end users individually
End users can enjoy the benefits of DM

The Digital Media Project

The Digital Media Manifesto proposes the establishment (see below) of the Digital Media Project, a not-for-profit organisation as the vehicle developing the proposed technical and legal actions. The technical action will be directly carried out by the Project. The policy and legislation action will be studied by the Project and recommendations issued to appropriate entities capable of executing them. In addition the Digital Media Project will further analyse and take steps to remove the other barriers that stand in the way to reaching the objective of setting in motion all facets of the Digital Media industry to the benefit of society, business players and users.

3. Major actions

3.1 Policy actions

3.1.1. Mapping rights traditionally enjoyed by users to the DM space

Legislation concerning the rights acquired by end users with content is the result of decades of interventions mostly concerned with analogue media or specific aspects of DM capabilities. The legislative consistency is also far from uniform across countries.

Part of this body of legislation concerns basic user rights, such as the ability to quote somebody, or the right to copy parts of publications, dating back to the Berne Convention. Another is the result of actions triggered by the need to limit the effect of some new features that were enabled by new media technologies and that were considered too damaging to rights holders.

DM technologies allow a vast number of new possibilities, some of which had an equivalent in the analogue world. In general, however, it is not straightforward to see how basic user rights of the analogue age can be carried over to the digital media space. One of the obstacles to adoption of DM is the decision of service providers to prevent the making of personal copies and thereby remove what users have come to consider as their basic right, whether mandated by law or not. While this is possibly dictated by understandable practical reasons and often because a blanket support of those rights would deprive the DRM solution of its raison d'Ítre, unilaterally introduced restrictions are not understood by users.

In the following, four examples are considered: right to quote, right to make personal copy, right to choose playback device and right to privacy.

Right to quote It is reasonably easy to exercise the "right to quote" using extracts from analogue media. However, in a scenario of protected digital media, if support to this feature has not been designed from the beginning, a right traditionally enjoyed in the analogue age is lost. It is probably not too difficult to devise technical solutions to this problem, but rights holders releasing content have no incentive to do so. The result is one more reason for civil rights organisations to oppose the use of protected content.
Right to make personal copy It is a sensible thing to give end users the right to make a backup copy of analogue media they buy. For example, a user buying a VHS cassette may lose or wear out the original, but he should still be able to watch the content should one of the two things happen. In the digital case, however, this is not necessarily a requirement because a user may decide to acquire a license and get the digital content via the network any time he wants.
Right to choose playback device Users have traditionally had the right to buy the playback device from the manufacture of their choice or even assemble the device themselves. This was a correct practice as long as content was unprotected. But with protected content this is no longer possible, because the playback device must satisfy certain minimum and probably restricted criteria, if it is not going to become a hole through which valuable content flows away.
Right to privacy Traditionally for the majority of readily available content, users can preserve anonymity and shield their private choices from those from whom they buy. With the combination of network and DRM it becomes very easy for service providers to track user behaviour accurately. Users demand that there should be the possibility to opt out from this possibly unwelcome scrutiny.

So far the relationship between users, device manufacturers and the media business has been largely adversarial. We are seeing associations working on "Bills of Right" which are statements of principles that more often do not stand the test of practical implementability. We are also seing media businesses working in isolation of the users and frequently independently of one another providing solutions that reduce the scope of traditional rights, even when there could have been ways to preserve at least some of them. There should be no surprise if certain industry fora have been working on such concepts as "Authorised Domain" for years without reaching agreement.

The Digital Media Project should provide a neutral place where a dialectic collaboration between the three communities can take place. The approach suggested is to



3.1.2. Phasing out analogue legacies

Even before the introduction of copyright law (UK, 1710), the management of intellectual property has always been a challenge. That challenge was intensified with the introduction of mass reproduction technology, such as recorded music. However, it was the mass sale of consumer recording devices, such as the reel to reel tape recorder, in the early 1950's, that created a significant difficulty.

In Germany, where the issue first came to court, a judge decided that the privacy of the citizen took precedence over the rights of content owners. However, it was also decided that it would not be fair to deprive holders of rights of income from acts of private copying. Therefore it was decided to place a levy on equipment that could be used by citizens to make copies of protected material in the privacy of their own home for their own personal use. Levies, once instituted, were seen by rights holders as a useful way to gain some compensation and while the levy rates were set by governments, the management of the levies and the distribution of the resulting revenues were taken over by Collecting Societies.

Since the raising of the first levy in Germany, levies have been instituted in many European countries and in some countries in other continents, such as Canada. Until the coming of digital, levies were mostly raised on media such as blank tape (audio and video) and on some equipment.

As it widely acknowledged, digital has placed the ability to make perfect copies in the hands of practically anyone possessing a computer. And the Internet has enabled copied material to be freely exchanged, irrespective of what the law says. As a result, Collecting Societies in many European countries have pressed their government to impose levies on digital media and equipment.

The situation today is that levies are either already imposed or are claimed on digital media and equipment in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Other countries may yet decide to impose levies.

The revenues deriving from levies are managed by national collecting societies and apportioned to the rights holders in accordance with their rights and contracts. Hence, creators and producers (by virtue of their neighbouring rights and their contracts with creators) benefit from this compensation for private copying.


While the revenues are substantial, rights holders and their representatives in the Collecting Societies say that, in terms of the total content market, the sums raised by levies are small. However, it should be noted that there is little data available to evaluate any gap that may exist between the estimated losses from private copying and the revenue to be raised from levies.

Some figures provided by Hewlett Packard in Spain suggest that losses from private copying are at least 20% less than the revenues to be raised from levies. The argument for the imposition of levies on digital media and equipment is that it is currently impossible to control consumer private copying and that levies are the only solution.

However, the real issue is whether or not DRM can cumulatively take the place of levies for private copying. Technologically, it would seem to be quite possible. However, two arguments are raised against the use of DRM in this area.

Firstly, users claim that under the fair use provisions, they are allowed to take such copies. Secondly, it is also argued that DRM will not be able to meet users' privacy expectations and will therefore not be trusted. Both arguments have some merit but as long as levies continue to be imposed ever more widely, there may be little incentive to deploy DRM widely.



3.1.3. Deployment of broadband access

As with early content delivery technologies, e.g. low speed data, ISDN and mobile radio systems, the issues with the provision of ubiquitous broadband vary from country to country, but in general the challenges are not only technology but a combination of commercial, legal and political factors as well.

Broadband Access: Technologies

Digital point-to multipoint delivery, i.e. digital broadcasting, is generally available and in some countries is reaching high proportions of the population. Clearly such infrastructures provide very significant opportunities for delivery of important classes of DM to end users. Other needs, however, can only be served by broadband two-way delivery.

In general the challenges for the latter are not linked with long-distance or main network broadband capacity. It is in the ‘thin’ periphery of networks where it is difficult to employ economies of scale.

The table below provides an overview of the different possibilities users have today to connect to digital sources.



Access type






~1 Mbit/s

~100 kbit/s

Optimally within ~4km of a telephone exchange

Cable modem

Internet access

10 Mbit/s

10 Mbit/s

Shared across local area users
Attractive in highly-populated areas



Few Gbit/s




Few Gbit/s



Internet access

2 Mbit/s

Satellite or PSTN

Good for downloading data and browsing
Difficult for streamed audio and video



Few 100 Mbit/s


Regulated spectrum (3.6 and 4.2GHz, 10 km; 20-30GHz, 100s of m)


Internet access

11/50 Mbit/s

11/50 Mbit/s

Unregulated spectrum (2.4Ghz, few 10s of m; 5Ghz lower coverage)


Internet access

Few 10s of kbit/s

Few 10s of kbit/s

Shared with other users in the cell


Internet access

Up to 2 Mbit/s

Up to 2 Mbit/s

2 Mbit/s is the bandwidth of one cell

Video CD


~1.5 Mbit/s


Storage medium



~10 Mbit/s


Storage medium


Broadband Access: Demand and services.

It can be argued that today’s digital point to multipoint DM systems terrestrial, satellite and cable TV are essentially extending existing analogue broadcast to digital. Digital technology is providing significantly more channels, improved technical quality and enhanced services, such as multimedia teletext and increased viewer involvement via simple live feedback mechanisms and access to multiple sources or views.

The commercial viability of such systems is open to question however. In some situations national spectrum release strategies are subsidising digital terrestrial. Digital satellite and cable seem to be only commercially viable where there are legislated or commercial monopolies created such that some content is exclusively available. Digital cable also appears viable in some countries where there are no common carrier obligations on network providers.

Essentially point to multipoint systems can be regarded as content- specific. The true potential of DM will be realised when content agnostic systems prevail. This is a typical common factor with two-way systems.

Attempts made by the telcos in the last decade to stimulate broadband provision via new DM service offerings, eg broadband video-phones or ‘real’ video or movies-on-demand’, have generally failed. There were multiple causes for this result

Two-way broadband access to the home or small business features is in the plans of all the world’s telecommunications network providers and is also stimulating many independent approaches that by-pass telco local loop networks, eg using Wi-Fi. There is evidence of growing demand for such provision, led by the most active Internet users. Broadband access for large and medium size companies is generally present already, being provided by dedicated cables or fixed radio, where business-critical usage justifies the significant deployment costs.

Evidence of domestic broadband demand today suggests that it is not 'new services' as such that are currently causing people to buy, or indeed demand that two-way broadband be available. It is more increasing reliance on the internet for business, shopping, downloads, remote working, and the attraction of an always-on capability. Just the act of keeping a basic PC operating system software up to date means that BA is almost a necessity today. Often BA is needed simply so several people in a household can access the internet at the same time.

This should not be unexpected. There is a very scarce DM offer today on the web and what exists is often of dubious legitimacy. Further there are few "consumer-grade" devices that one can connect to the Internet and the PC remains the main device to consume content, be it music, video clips or movies compressed from DVD.

On the other hand when telcos equip local line plant and exchanges such that ADSL can be provided to high penetration, the take-up is generally less than market surveys among intensive Internet users predict.

With video-phones, there appears to be little evidence that people generally want to communicate using face-to-face images. It could be that people like to be ‘in-control’ when they communicate. When we talk on the telephone - we know what the other hears. When we mail or text we know what they read, when we communicate with live pictures - we do not in general know what the other sees, nor do we see a great deal of value in seeing them. On the other hand maybe video messaging and live image transmission on 3G mobile systems, and the inherent appeal to the youth market, will prove as surprising in the first decade of the new millennium as text messaging did in the last decade of the old.

Broadband Access: Economics, Legislation and Politics

In many countries economic issues are made more complex through state intervention, by regulation, licensing, competition policy. Political needs also surface where governments see ubiquitous BA as an economic necessity for national competitiveness.

Many of the business issues are not new – e.g. the effect on existing revenue streams in incumbent telcos and investment returns, particularly post dot-com bubble, in new ones.

Protection of 'legacy' revenue streams remains an issue with incumbent Telcos although there are signs that now seems to be far less so than in the 90's.

But incumbent network owners also have to address completely new issues as a result of national and international anti-competitive and market-opening initiatives. For example so called ‘local-loop unbundling’ is a regulatory requirement in some countries, meaning that existing telephony network owners are forced to make their cables between local switch sites and customers available for third-parties to offer broadband services. Such approaches create completely new business scenarios for all players. There are signs however that the business models are now becoming understood – at least for the deployment of infrastructure.

What of the ambition for Broadband Access?

Left to itself Broadband Access is going to proceed along the current trends where home users keep on take up existing offers, such as ADSL at a few 100 Kbit/s and Cable Modems (10 million users for the former and 30 million users for the latter in the USA alone). While these constitute significant advances compared to dial-up modems of a few years ago, they should not be considered as enablers for unrestricted access to an unlimited number of broadband DM sources that are required by such scenarios as distance learning, access to content repositories, personalised advertisement or more generally by scenarios where the number of content sources approaches the number of content consumers.

Evidence of the success of mobility suggests that a further ambition should be:- equally rich access independent of location and whilst on the move. Although in this case there are also challenging issues with the user interface technology, particularly when balancing size, weight, screen size and ability to view in all environments.

The obstacles to these ambitions as far as BA are concerned are varied. Most have been explored above eg:

The challenge for the DM project is to solve these very large issues and remove the obstacles impeding the creation of a virtuous circle for all; technology suppliers, content creators, content oriented service providers, connectivity providers, and the end user.


3.1.4. Improving development of and access to standards

3.2 Technical actions

3.2.1. Interoperable DRM platforms

One way to look at DM technologies is to see them as offering "improved" ways to perform CMSC functions on media. Content captured with digital video cameras can be stored on hard disks in the studio more conveniently because IT-based content management techniques can be used. Geographically-distributed production centres can exchange DM using digital networks without quality degradation. Distribution of content to end users can be achieved easily and less expensively using digital networks. End users can enjoy the content so acquired in a variety of new fashions. All this can be done because digital technologies are so efficient and flexible that they can certainly be combined to do the same things as they used to be done in the past, but also in a myriad of new ways.

The other practical way to look at DM is a consequence of this flexibility. The way media business was carried out in the "analogue age" was based on the existence of certain technology gateways. If digital technologies allow value chain players to go around even one of those technology gateways, the foundations of the old ways of doing business with media disappear. The most critical gateway - the ability to anybody, even the end user, to make copies of content - has been crumbling for decades, but has been completely shattered by digital technologies. Indeed it is now possible to make automatically a large number of copies of a large number of pieces of content and distribute them to a large number of people connected to the Internet.

The debate on whether business models exist that are not digital copies of those employed in the analogue world has been raging for years. It is true that there is anecdotal evidence that innovative business models exist for digital content that can be freely copied. However, these models seem to work only when, e.g., content comes from little known artists or is used by small communities. Today there is no convincing evidence that these models can be applied to any type of content, certainly not that kind of valuable pieces of content that is currently purchased by millions of people and also not for new forms of content, such as e-learning of new forms of services, such as Digital Libraries that are enabled by digital technologies.

While it cannot be excluded that such new models may eventually appear and even become mainstream, but the process may take years and the dangerous DM stalemate in which the media industry and society struggles with does not allow us to keep waiting for the DM Messiah while the situation degenerates by the day. The only valid alternative that remains on the table is the use of content protection technologies or Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies to remove the major disabling factor of DM business.

Currently there is no commonly agreed definition of DRM, however, the one adopted by NIST can serve the purpose. "DRM is a system of IT components and services along with corresponding law, policies and business models which strive to distribute and control IP and its rights". In this sense the analogue pay TV service that Canal+ started offering in the 1980s already used a form of DRM. The use of DRM technologies can be seen more clearly in the digital pay TV services by satellite and cable offered by a number of operators in many countries. Also some of the services offered by the now failed ITV Digital in the UK were based on DRM. Lastly, portable devices developed by some manufactures  according to the SDMI specification also made use of DRM technologies.

The value chain is typically made up of a number of independent business players, each with their own business models dictating how IT components and services should be used to achieve distribution and control of their IP. Therefore it is natural that each player wishes to retain the freedom of choosing the DRM solution that best fits his needs. The result will then be multiple DRM solutions implemented on different portions of different instances of the value chain.

This assembly of loosely interoperable solutions is the traditional way of managing content on the value chain and, no matter how inefficient it is, it does the job that it is expected of it. DRM, however, is not a technology that can be introduced arbitrarily at any point of the value chain, because its introduction at one point influences the rest of the value chain in a substantial way. Therefore, while it is conceivable to have multiple DRMs handled by different value chain players, coexistence of different DRMs with a level of trust adequate for normal business relations is a major challenge that in some cases (e.g. conversion between different Rights Expression Languages) may still require advances at the scientific level. The obvious consequence of this "freedom of choice" of DRM solutions is that DRM cannot become the tool enabling meaningful businesses solutions for an unpredictable length of time

The only feasible solution in the short-to-medium term is a deployment of DRM solutions that are based on technologies designed to interoperate. This does not mean that there must be same technologies should be used everywhere but all solutions, simply that mechanisms should exist, e.g. via negotiation protocols, for different technologies to interoperate. An example is provided by MPEG IPMP-X. This lets end user devices download the tools that are required by a specific content protection system. These interoperable DRM platforms should be specified in a such a way that the needs of different value chain players are satisfied and that access to needed DRM features are technically enabled

A list of value chain functions for which interfaces may be considered is

  1. Content Creators
  2. Rights societies
  3. DRM solution suppliers
  4. Back-office application providers (content management, e-business, billing, etc.)
  5. Content Distributors
  6. Application developers
  7. Content Aggregators (e.g. Music Subscription Services, multi-channel TV companies, Digital Libraries, educational institutions)
  8. Storage and transport services (telco, web hosting, etc.)
  9. Network Services (e.g. ISP, online services, etc.)
  10. Access services (e.g. portals, search services, etc.)
  11. End-user device manufacturers (HW) 
  12. End-user device manufacturers (HW)
A number of standard initiatives already exist that are developing basic technologies that can become the foundation of interoperable DRM platforms, e.g.  Because of the large number of initiatives it is likely that no further action is required at the level of enabling technology specification. However, action is required to develop appropriate interfaces enabling access to the different value chain players. It is understood that dealing with industry-specific interfaces should be left to appropriate industry groups.


3.2.2. Interoperable end-user devices

A necessary condition for a successful interoperable DRM platform is the existence of interoperable end-user devices. Actually they are technically a part of the platform but it is convenient to treat it separately because several other issues are included, such as the fact that they will have to be operated by possibly unsophisticated end users.

Traditionally end user devices have been both media specific and delivery specific. Different devices are needed to view a TV program coming via OTA broadcast or via a VHS cassette recorder, even if it is the same TV signal that the device has to deal with. On the other hand the same device can be used to watch or listen to programs from different sources, i.e. the receiving device is not content or service provider specific. This was true even at the time there were two video cassette recording standards (VHS and Beta), because content, e.g. a movie, was available on both formats.

The only major exception, since the early 1950s, were STBs for CATV. However, these were more in the form of "adaptors" to pick up the signal, because the signal from the STB fed the same TV set that was used to view OTA broadcast. The other, more serious, exception began in the 1980s with analogue pay TV decoders. A common feature of these devices was their technical simplicity and hence reduced cost.

The first example of DM - the CD - followed the same paradigm and so did the DAT and the now failed DCC. The same was done more recently with the DVD. This can be defined as the end-user device for a platform for distribution of encrypted digital video content on package media. Any DVD player can play any content, with the restriction that it has to obey certain rules (region code) that have been set by the rights holder.

Subsequently there have been other significant departures. While the CATV industry simply continued their practice of giving special (digital, this time) STBs to their subscribers, Service Providers of satellite pay TV services required that their subscribers use special STBs capable of decrypting content that are commonly rented. Also newer services, such as PVR, also require that the user acquires special devices to enjoy the service.

In a sense DM has brought no major conceptual difference with the practices of the analogue age. However, there is a major practical difference when it comes to devices for the mass market and devices for nascent fragmented markets. Prices of the former are brought down by broad competition, e.g. very few tens of $/€ for a low-end CD or DVD player. Prices of the latter remain high, e.g. a  pay TV STB costs roughly one order of magnitude more than their analogue equivalent.

To be in some DM business is a much more costly adventure with the upside that it is easier to make one's subscribers more impervious to competing offers, because of the sheer size of investments required, but this model has still to prove that it is economically viable. Indeed only Service Providers operating in monopolistic conditions are in the black. In a country like Italy two competing operators, after having been in the red for years, have decided to merge, thus creating a monopoly of pay TV in Italy. The UK government assigned two DTT licenses to two competing operators. They first merged and eventually the merged company - ITV Digital - bankrupted.

One of the problems with a digital end user devices, is the much faster device obsolescence rate. This problem can only increase as more features are added. In these conditions it becomes very hard even for a major SP to plan centrally for updates of end user devices, because users have different replacement requirements. This is the case of the PC market where device obsolescence rate is very high, still users respond differently to external stimuli. And DM consumption devices are becoming more and more like PCs in their functionalities (even though of course they do not look like PCs)

There have been several attempts to steer away from this model, one of them being the DVB Common Interface (CI). A STB with CI is generic and can be purchased in the shops. The service provider-specific portion is reduced to a card to be inserted in the CI. Another example is the agreement reached by the US CATV industry at the beginning of 2003 with a similar result. Although the business is quite different, also the approach taken by the Open Media Alliance for mobile telephony goes in the same direction.

By now there is enough evidence that only a competitive market of end user devices from different manufacturers, capable of consuming protected content, that end users can buy in the shops can provide opportunities for sustainable DM business of media that is respectful of rights holders and satisfactory to end users. Even though it is not with protected content, the recent successful development of UK DTT using openly available STBs is a confirmation.

Such an open end-user device market can kick off a phenomenon of a size comparable to the IBM PC. The reason why this has not happened yet for DM devices are manifold, one of them being the absence of interoperable DRM platforms. But even in the digital TV case this did not happen because of the segmentation of the digital TV STB market and the reliance on fixed hardware has reduced the STB market to a small number of high-volume, low-return tightly controlled (by SPs) OEM markets and a small market of open STBs. This interoperable end user device for horizontal markets has all the credentials to qualify for a role comparable if not superior to the PC, where hardware will be inexpensive and with ever-increasing performance and there will be a rich market of applications provided by a whole host of application developers.

Interoperable end-user devices will allow device design to address human interface with radically greater efficiency. DM can arrive from many sources. Storage "media" can become nothing more than a screen on the user's display, letting them know networked storage is available -- a type of storage now called "media-less" by some. The deciding design factor for interoperable user-devices will be the human experience it is designed for. This will succeed and increase demand. We are probably unable to imagine the different types of device that will be invented and become conventional even in a non distant future.


3.2.3. End-to-end conformance assessment

A content value chain is a complex system where different players, bound by legal/business agreements and with the support of different technological solutions, operate so as to achieve the goals of value chain. Existing value chains were an outgrowth of practices as the business matured and many components of the relationships between business players followed established practices that had embedded means to check for conformance.

Use of DRM implies the redesign of B2B relationships at least on certain portions of the value chain that must take into account the fact that IT is the underlying enabling technology. To accept the change value chain players must be provided with the means to verify that each player operates according to the agreed rules. These means are called "coformance assessment" and must operate at three levels: legal (e.g. checking that content offering satisfies local law or regulation), business (e.g. checking aherence with business rules attached to content) and technical (e.g. checking that a playback device has the required security).


4. The Digital Media Project

4.1 Purpose

4.2 Work plan and deliverables

4.3 Organisation

4.4 Charter

5. Benefits of the Digital Media Project

6. Acronyms