The Digital Media Manifesto


L. Chiariglione


Interim draft of "Digital Media Manifesto"



Editor's note:

This is the final draft of the Digital Media Manifesto. The draft is open to comments. The Digital Media Manifesto will be published on 2003/09/30.

Executive summary

Digital Media creates a new experience enabled by a collection of advances in digital technologies. These advances should have offered many more opportunities than now exist, for creativity, business, culture and enjoyment. This fuller realisation of Digital Media should provide benefits for players all along the value chain connecting creator with end user, but this has not happened yet.

The Digital Media Manifesto identifies actions required to achieve this fuller use of Digital Media. Executing these actions would be the mission of the Digital Media Project, a not-for-profit organisation whose establishment is proposed.

Table of contents






Breaking the Digital Media stalemate



Major actions




Policy actions



Mapping of rights traditionally enjoyed by users to the DM space



Phasing out analogue legacies applied to digital recording



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







Benefits of the Digital Media Project




1. Introduction

After decades of investment in R&D, Digital Technologies have spawned huge and profitable industries including Information Technology, Micro-electronics and Digital Communication.

Digital Technologies have also been employed in the media industry, for example Compact Disc and Digital Versatile Disc where players all along the value chain that connects creator with end user have received benefits. These new distribution media have meant new content sales for the content industry, new device sales for the consumer electronics industry and improved audio and visual experience for the end users.

The Digital Media (DM) experience has enticed end users with many more offerings than CD and DVD. Over the past few years, the sad fact is most business models for innovative DM have been unprofitable or are being challenged in the courts. Unlike the huge success for other digital technology-driven industries, DM is in a phase of stagnation. This can and must be changed. It is expected end users will financially support a fuller DM experience if it is properly priced, legitimate and comparable to the convenience of DM that is widely used today. This is the root of the new vision.



The Digital Media Manifesto proposes to make an improved Digital Media experience economically rewarding on a global scale -- legitimate for the multiplicity of players on the value chain and satisfactory for end users -- by overcoming significant and challenging obstacles.


If the hurdles to a fuller DM experience are removed, and if technology for open DM access devices equipped with simple and enjoyable interfaces for end users is standardised then one can expect providers of content, services and devices will have much greater incentives to exploit DM. This is expected to be achieved by accomplishing the following steps:

The Digital Media Manifesto proposes specific action plans to accomplish these steps, recognising the interrelated complexities to be overcome and the urgent need for simultaneous progress on technical and policy issues. Executing these actions is the mission of the Digital Media Project, a not-for-profit organisation whose establishment is proposed.

2. Breaking the Digital Media stalemate

The creation and distribution of media content, together with associated manufacturing and replication, are major global economic activities i.e. the cumulative worldwide turnover is huge amounting to several hundred billion $/€ p.a. The impact of media on society, business and the personal lives of billions of people can hardly be overstated.

Analogue Media

Although media can be packaged in different forms, they each share the common feature that the actual media content is immaterial. Whereas physical devices are required to create, move, store and use (CMSU) 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 CMSU all content media until about 20 years ago. Traditionally, the tight connection of content media with the CMSU technology employed was a major feature. Examples include vinyl recording, broadcasting in the VHF/UHF band, cable television distribution and VHS recording.

The physical nature of analogue CMSU 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 CMSU 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" some of 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 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

Since a few years a collection of digital technologies such as computers (e.g. PC), compression (e.g. MP3), network file sharing (e.g. P2P) and digital recording (e.g. PVR) have been embraced by millions of users because of the radically new experiences - that we call here Digital Media (DM) rxperience - these technologies offer. Successful examples of digitised media such as CD and DVD, generally only provide "enhancements" of functionalities already available with analogue technologies.

Successful cases of Digital Media have shown that digital technologies have the potential to alter most of the premises on which the traditional media business is founded. This is of concern to existing value chain players because of, 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 DM experience – this is achieved in the context of potential abuse of other people’s Intellectual Property (IP).

Legal solutions, so far

Established media companies have responded by legal actions on two fronts, law suits of against those whom they see as infringing on their rights (P2P networks and users) and legislative lobbying to request limitations on the scope of fair use and privacy (e.g. mandating ad-hoc blocking technologies in consumption devices, ending of fair use for on demand services, mandating ISP to deliver IP addresses of file-sharers…)

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 is a total paradigm shift and it is an illusion to attempt to counter its effects with ad-hoc technology stop gaps mandated by law.

Technology solution, so far

The technology front has not been idle and has been actively advocating DRM as the solution to a number of concerns surrounding the 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.

One stalemate, two sets of consequences

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

The Economic Damage: because we are deprived of Digital Media, the driver of economic development in a multitude of industrial domains, e.g. networks, devices and software.

The Social Damage: because we are deprived Digital Media, the next quantum step in the ability of humans to communicate that can benefit society, business and individuals.

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, militates against the efforts required for better solutions and may have profound negative impacts on the future of IT.

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 to break through

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 revised, such as:

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

Some potential benefits of a fuller DM experience

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

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 propose 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

The Digital Media Manifesto identifies seven major areas for action. They are grouped according to their nature: policy and technical, and are:


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

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 along with content is the result of decades of interventions mostly concerned with analogue media or specific aspects of DM capabilities. Legislative consistency is also far from uniform across countries.

Part of this body of legislation concerns basic user rights that date back to the Berne Convention, 1886, such as the possibility to quote somebody, or the right to copy parts of publications. Another part 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 some service providers to prevent the ability to make personal copies, thereby removing what users have come to consider a basic right, regardless of its formal legal status. While this may be dictated by understandable practical reasons - often because a blanket support of such rights would deprive primitive DRM solutions of their raison d'être - unilaterally introduced restrictions are often neither understood by users or disclosed with proper notice, and are opposed by many worthy organisations.

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 for 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 let end users 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 mishaps occur. 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 manufacturer of their choice or even assemble the device themselves. This was a reasonable practice as long as content was unprotected. But with protected content this may no longer be possible in general, because the playback device must satisfy certain minimum and probably restrictive 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 networks and DRM it becomes very easy for service providers to track user behaviour accurately. Users demand that there should be the possibility of opting out from this potentially unwelcome scrutiny.

So far the relationship between users, device manufacturers and the media business has been largely adversarial. We are seeing user associations working on "Bills of Rights" that, while difficult to implement in a DRM system, show what functionality is desired and what levels of restrictions are acceptable to users of digital media systems. We are also seeing media businesses working in isolation from 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 forums have been working on concepts such as "Authorised Domain" for years without result: it is hard to agree on technical solutions without user requirements, particularly so when the technologies considered are too poor to express the complexity of the [note: please add adjective to clarify what 'environment' means here] home environment.

The Digital Media Project should provide a neutral place where a dialectic collaboration between the three communities can take place. While it is too early to commit now, the following two approaches, one working upstream-downstream and the other downstream-upstream have been suggested:






exclusive economic and moral rights traditionally enjoyed by rights holders

rights traditionally enjoyed by end users


rights holder rights not infringing end users' rights into technical requirements

end user rights not infringing rights holders' rights into technical requirements


DRM platforms and particularly end user device using these requirements

DRM platforms and particularly end user device using these requirements


DRM platforms and end user devices in such a way that those rights holder rights are technically supported

DRM platforms and end user devices in such a way that those end user rights are technically supported


at the level of individual legislations which, if any, technical features to mandate

at the level of individual legislations which, if any, technical features to mandate

It may turn out that a combination of both approaches will be required.



3.1.2. Phasing out analogue legacies applied to digital recording

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, which 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 be unfair to deprive rights holders of income lost through acts of private copying. Therefore it was decided to place a levy on equipment that could be used by citizens to make copies of copyright-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. The levy rates were set by governments, and the management of the levies and distribution of 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 is widely acknowledged, digital has placed the ability to make perfect copies in the hands of practically anyone possessing a computer. Also, 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 governments to impose levies on digital media and equipment. In some regions, legislation to somehow restrict or impose levies on Internet use is under consideration or is already in practice.

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 if they are registered in Collecting Societies.


The concerns about the DM levy are:

Another legacy of the analogue age is the network of legal country-based restrictions. In Europe for the last 50 years there have been efforts at creating a single market for physical goods but little if anything has changed for such immaterial goods as media content. Today a resident in France may not subscribe to a pay TV service from nearby countries, in spite of the fact that the signal arrives at his roof-top antenna.

This did not have major practical effects as long as content was tightly bound to physical carriers such as tape or broadcasting was limited by VHF/UHF propagation.Today, however, any justifications for such legally-enforced country-based market segmentation are outweighed by the potential economic and social gains made possible by DM.

For the task of phasing out the levy on blank digital recording media, the following are identified as issues for more thorough investigation


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. In general the challenges are not just technology but also a combination of commercial, legal and political factors. This section will consider the interrelation of technology, user demand, service provisioning, economics, legislation and politics, to generate a vision for improved broadband access.


Digital point-to-multipoint delivery, i.e. digital broadcasting, is generally available. In some countries it is already reaching a high proportion of the population. Clearly such infrastructures can provide 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 to long-distance or main network broadband capacity. It is in the ‘thin’ last-mile 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

7 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 lesser 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



~10 Mbit/s


Demand and services

It can be argued that today’s digital point-to-multipoint 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. In some situations, national spectrum release strategies are subsidising DTT. Digital satellite and cable seem to be commercially viable only 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, e.g. broadband video-phones or video/movies-on-demand, have generally failed. The following causes deserve mention:

Two-way broadband access to the home or small business features in the plans of all the world’s telecommunications network providers and is also stimulating many independent approaches that bypass telco local loop networks, e.g. 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, 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 employment, the attraction of an always-on capability, the need to keep basic PC operating system software up to date and the need to let several people in a household access the internet at the same time. On the other hand when telcos decide to equip local line plants and exchanges such that ADSL can be provided to high penetration, the take-up among intensive Internet users is generally less than market surveys predict.

This timid incremental need for broadband access is not surprising. DM offerings are scarce 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. The PC remains the main device to consume content, be it music, video clips or movies compressed from DVD.

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 send text, we know what they read. When we communicate with live pictures, we do not generally know what the other sees, nor do we see a great deal of value in seeing them. On the other hand video messaging and live image transmission on 3G mobile systems may have inherent appeal to the youth market. This could prove as surprising in the first decade of the new millennium as mobile text messaging was in the last decade of the past millennium.

Economics, Legislation and Politics

In many countries, economic issues are made more complex through state intervention, by regulation, licensing and competition policy. Political needs also surface where governments see ubiquitous broadband access 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 this seems to be far less so now than in the 90's.

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 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 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). These constitute significant advances compared to the dial-up modems of a few years ago, but they should not be considered adequate enablers. Scenarios such as distance learning, access to content repositories and personalised advertisement require unrestricted access to an unlimited number of broadband DM sources. Other scenarios envision a number of content sources comparable to 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. In this case there are also challenging issues with the user interface technology, particularly when balancing size, weight, screen size and viewability in all environments.

There are various obstacles to these ambitions for broadband access. Those explored above include:

The challenge for the DM project is to solve these 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

DM provides the most advanced form of communication between humans ever invented. To succeed it requires some sort of standardisation, by whatever means this is achieved. Examples range from the "Red Book" standardisation of the CD format, the 80X86-MSDOS standardisation of IBM-compatible PCs, MPEG’s standardisation of audio and video coding technologies forming the underlying basis of MPEG-2 digital video and MP3 audio files, and the DVD Forum’s standardisation of interactive audio and video DVDs.

As for most things "digital", DM is a field where the innovation rate is high and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. However, the last few years have shown that DM faces considerable challenges in the process of standardisation and in the ensuing provision of licensing for relevant IPR that may be required for implementing the standards.

Although every case is somewhat different, the development of technology standards can usually be categorised as having being developed by means of one of three ways:

The development approach usually has a great impact on how (and at what cost) the technology is made available to the marketplace and also on its eventual market success. Only the first approach, however, will be considered here as the second is within the sphere of freedom of individual companies and the third is gradually becoming less important for the DM future.

The first approach has often provided the highest quality technology solutions which, if not dragged down by other problems (e.g., bureaucratic delays or squabbling, market lock-in to technologies delivered earlier), is the best route to market success. The challenge becomes finding a process by which the standardisation bodies can carry out the standards development that makes steady forward progress. We have recently seen both examples of highly successful standard implementation (e.g., the development of MPEG-2 Advanced Audio Coding [1, 2] in which a superior technology for encoding general audio signals was created by pulling together the best technology alternatives for each of the main building blocks of the full coder’s "reference model") and of unsuccessful standardisation initiatives failing to create a standard (e.g., the recent SDMI which was suspended due to immaturity of the technology required for the standard).

Typically, the implementation of a standard requires access to IP owned by third parties. The standards bodies require that such IP be accessible at fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. Following this basic rule, normally a "per unit" licensing fee is agreed upon between the IP holder and the adopter of the technology. In general, the specific licensing terms are not described in the standard. This process has proven highly successful in the past, see for example the deployment of set-top boxes, VCRs, CD players, etc.

In this context, the MPEG-2 standard development [1] marked the transition to a new phase for the relationship between the definition of the technical specifications and their relative IPR. For the first time, it was recognised at the standards level that the new defined technology could be used in a range of radically different products and that its success depended on the coordination of the IPR owned by many different parties. Initially, the efforts of a working group defined in the standards setting body [3] and then of a private company successfully addressed IPR as well as competition issues. A "pool" of the IPR holders was formed in order to provide users of the technology with nondiscriminatory access to as much IP incorporated in the standards specification as possible in one single step. The idea behind this concept was that by "buying in bulk" the technology users would save time and money. The innovative MPEG-2 technology which responded to the needs of new emerging industries was easily accessible both in terms of its specifications and IPR. This ultimately enabled its success in the marketplace. The MPEG-2 story proved once more that the formal standardisation process can provide powerful means to successfully deploy technology in the marketplace and to allow different players to build different products and services on top of the base technology.

The MPEG-2 success was due in part to the fact that the licensing terms were based on traditionally simple, well-understood models of deployment of the technology. For example, the IPR for MPEG-2 Video decoders are licensed in the same manner whether they apply to a DVD hardware decoder (CE industry) or software decoder (computer industry) [4].

The DM development on the other hand has sustained an innovation rate that continues to be extraordinarily high. DM deployment models barely fit traditional models and in many cases seem to clash with models of products and services that have traditionally been deployed in the IT field. Standards-based technology licensing is becoming increasingly challenging since the same technology is often deployed across different industries where separate business models are typically applied (even as competitive lines dividing those industries may also be blurring). The existence of a single standard does not necessarily imply that one single licensing model is relevant across industries. This aspect can be currently observed even for "traditional" standards components such as audio and video coding where different players in different industries are currently deploying products and services in very different fashions. One can also argue that this is just the beginning, where more complex situations will stem from more complex standards such as metadata and DRM standards, especially when combined with other multimedia standards. Other traditional limitations on the use of technology also clash with the high innovation rate of DM technologies. From this perspective easier access to technology for research purposes would benefit continuing use of established standards and would promote innovation.

The questions that perhaps we need to address are:

"Are the formal standards setting bodies capable of not only defining rapidly changing technology but also to making it widely accessible and deployable?"


"Are the traditional hardware-based standardisation and licensing processes adequate to support DM technologies with applications across widely diverse platforms?"

As a means to answer these questions it would be useful to review the workflow from the moment when the need and requirements for a standard are identified until the moment when the license for the underlying IPR is finalised. In this review it might be useful to redesign the workflow so specific products/services that the standard will support in different industries are analysed early in the process rather than expecting the licensing terms to resolve any conflict once the standard is finalised. Part of this process would be the assumption that multiple IP owners would be willing to provide access to the underlying technologies through adequate business models. While keeping the validity of the concept of "buying in bulk" - in other words, setting up a patent pool for the standard IPR - the legal and financial aspects of setting up such a pool can now become very focused and the overall time-to-market can be considerably reduced.


[1] ISO/IEC 13818, Information Technology, "Generic coding of moving pictures and associated audio", Geneva 1994-1997.

[2] M. Bosi et al., "ISO/IEC MPEG-2 Advanced Audio Coding", JAES, 51, 780 - 792, October 1997.

[3] J. L. Mitchell et al., "MPEG Video Compression Standards", Chapman and Hall, New York 1997.

[4], "MPEG-2 Patent Portfolio License".

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 CMSU functions on content 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 done in the past, and can also do things 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, some of the foundations of the old ways of doing business with media may disappear. The most critical gateway - the difficulty of making copies of content - has been crumbling for decades, and has been completely shattered by digital technologies. Indeed it is now possible to automatically make 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 meaningful business models exist that are not digital conversions 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 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 all types of content, certainly not valuable pieces of content that are currently purchased by millions of people. They also seem not to apply to new forms of content such as e-learning, or 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 emerge and even become mainstream, the process may take years and the dangerous DM stalemate in which the media industry and society are struggling does not allow us to keep waiting for DM salvation to come 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.

While there is currently no commonly agreed definition of DRM, the one adopted by NIST can serve the purpose of the Digital Media Manifesto: "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". With this definition the analogue pay TV service that Canal+ started offering in the 1980s already used a form of DRM, but the use of DRM technologies can be seen more clearly in the digital pay TV services that many operators in many countries offer via satellite and cable or those offered by the now-failed ITV Digital in the UK. Also portable devices developed by some manufacturers according to the SDMI specification 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 has done the job that was 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, the 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 unrestricted "freedom of choice" of DRM solutions is that DRM cannot become the tool enabling meaningful businesses solutions in any predictable length of time

The only feasible solution in the short-to-medium term is the deployment of DRM solutions that are based on technologies designed to interoperate. This does not mean that there should be a single DRM specification holding across the value chain and that only the prescribed technologies should be used everywhere. There should be different solutions, offered by different vendors, that are capable of interoperating with one another, e.g. via negotiation protocols. An example is provided by MPEG IPMP-X, that provides an architecture that supports end user devices to download or receive, within the content, 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 is technically enabled. It should be noted however that although MPEG IPMP-X is used as an example, there are still interface issues that need to be identified and solved before it can provide its full capability towards the advancement of DM.

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

A number of standards initiatives already exist that are developing basic technologies that can become the foundation of interoperable DRM platforms, including:

Because of the already large number of initiatives it is likely that little further action is required at the level of enabling technology specification. On the other hand, 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.

To conclude the discussion of interoperable DRM platforms and their importance, without a widely accepted and adopted DRM platform, it has already been seen in the real world marketplace that although a given fielded application may achieve initial success, it is not possible to collect a large enough business user base to make the attempted DM ventures succeed due to limitations imposed by the lack of DRM interoperability. Additionally, without a sufficiently large potential business user base, rights holders see little incentive to risk something new when the current user base that exists without the use of DM is already sufficiently large enough to sustain operation.


3.2.2. Interoperable end-user devices

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

Traditionally end user devices have been both media 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 might 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 typically available on both formats.

The only major exception, since the early 1950s, was STBs for CATV. However, these were more in the form of "adaptors" to convert the TV signal picked up from the cable to a form that could be used to feed 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. In this case the "adaptor" also had the function of descrambling the signal. 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 as did the DAT and the now failed DCC and the same was also done more recently with the DVD. This last device can be defined as the end-user device of a platform for distribution of encrypted digital video content on package media. Any DVD player can play any content, with the restriction that it may have 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 providing 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 rather than purchased or otherwise provided. 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 to 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 DM 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 nascent market, however, remain high, e.g. a digital pay TV STB costs roughly one order of magnitude more than their analogue equivalent.

To be in some DM businesses is therefore a much more costly adventure but 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. However, this model still has to prove that it is economically viable. Indeed only pay TV 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 the country. On the other hand the UK government assigned two DTT licenses to two competing operators who subsequently merged and eventually the merged company - ITV Digital – still went bankrupt.

One of the additional problems with digital end user devices is the much faster device obsolescence rate. This problem can only increase as more features are added, as is possible and common with digital devices. 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 similar to the case of the PC market where device obsolescence rate is very high, and still different users have different behaviours. Business users feel reluctant and forced to change because the benefit to change is not felt to be significant whereas some end users are many times demanding and eagerly awaiting improvements and advances in devices due to rapidly improving content and applications.

There have been several attempts to steer away from the proprietary end-user device model, one of them being the DVB Common Interface (CI). An STB equipped with a 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 comparable result. Although the business is quite different, the approach taken by the Open Media Alliance for mobile telephony goes in the same direction.

Setting aside adventurous speculations, by now there is enough evidence that only a competitive market of end user devices from different manufacturers, capable of consuming protected content which 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 based on 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's. The reasons why this has not happened yet for DM devices are manifold, one of them being the absence of interoperable DRM platforms. Even in the digital pay TV case, where the number of end-user devices is already quite high, this does not happen because the segmentation of the digital TV STB market has reduced the market for such devices to high-volume, low-return OEM markets tightly controlled by SPs. The interoperable end user devices for horizontal markets advocated by the Digital Media Manifesto have all the credentials to qualify for a role comparable with if not superior to the PC, where hardware will enjoy ever-increasing performance and with a rich market of applications provided by a host of application developers.

Interoperable end-user devices will allow device design to address human interface with radically greater efficiency. Indeed DM can arrive from many sources and storage media can become apparently 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. Or, even better, removing the need for any knowledge of or interaction with storage media other than when a given DM title needs to physically move from one place to another such as taking a list of songs from the home audio system to the family car. 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 the not too 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 the value chain. The practices of existing value chains were created over long periods of time as the business matured and many components of the relationships between business players were based on practices that had embedded means to check for conformance of players to the rules.

Use of DRM implies the redesign of B2B relationships at least in 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 upon rules. These means are called "conformance assessment" and must operate at three levels: legal (e.g. by checking that content offerings satisfy local laws or regulations), business (e.g. by checking adherence with business rules attached to content) and technical (e.g. by checking that a playback device has the required security).

Methodologies for manually assessing compliance are impractical in the DM age. The only realistic solution is a semantically rich set of applications embedded in a trusted framework whereby DRM rules are understood and the DM experience is mediated through or monitored by the interoperable systems. This is expected to be a significant area of work for and impact from the DMP project. Because strict adherence to interoperability requirements through an effective conformance regime results in true ease-of-use for end users, this area is also expected to greatly aid market adoption and hence ROI for all members of the value chain.


4. The Digital Media Project

4.1. Purpose

The mission of the Digital Media Project (DMP) is to promote continuing successful development, deployment and use of Digital Media that respect the right of creators and business players to exploit their works and the wish of end users to fully enjoy the benefits of Digital Media technologies. Digital Media include mainstream media experiences such as Compact Disc, Digital Versatile Disc, Digital Audio Broadcasting and Digital Television but also newer emerging experiences made possible by Information and Communication Technologies.

The development of specifications enabling businesses, both new and old, that support new user experiences, and recommendations to appropriate entities to act on removal of barriers holding up exploitation of Digital Media is the selected means to realise the goals of DMP.

DMP is a not-for-profit organisation based on open international collaboration of all interested parties: corporations and individual firms, partnerships, governmental bodies or international organisations, supporting the DMP goals and the means to achieve them. A yearly fee is set every years to a level adequate to reach the goals set for that year.

However, DMP members are not bound to implement or use specific technology standards, or recommendations because of their participation in DMP.

DMP contributes the results of its activities to appropriate formal standards bodies and other appropriate entities whenever this is instrumental in achieving the general DMP goals.

4.2. Organisation

DMP has the following organisational structure

TCs are groups carrying out the work leading to specifications and recommendations. Their number and mandate depend on the specific goals DMP will give to itself from time to time to achieve its mission.

In the iDMP nitial phase the following four areas of work, assigned to 4 TCs, are identified:








End-to-end conformance


Develop RQ to TC2



Develop RP for legal, business and technical conformance across the value chain



Interoperable DRM platforms


Develop TS of interfaces between DRM components, including end user devices



Develop RP for end-user device human-machine nterfaces



DM policies


Develop RA on how phasing out of levy could/should be linked to deployment of DRM (as per TC1 and TC2 output)



Develop RA based on scenarios analysis of broadband access deployment dependence on legislation, and type and importance of DM services (as per TC1 and TC2 output)



Sustainable innovation


Develop RA on how innovation can sustain itself, specifically
- improvement of workflow of standards development and utilisation


Note: TC2 is likely to be a large TC because of the number of issues to be addressed and may need to be split in two.




Output to


Recommended Actions

Appropriate external entities



Groups inside DMP


Recommended Practices

Industry (operations)


Technical Action

Internal to DMP


Technical Specifications

Industry (manufacturing)

4.3. Work plan

The workplan assumes that DMP will become operational on 2004/01/01.







  • Organisation is in place
  • 2004 work plan agreed
  • TCs established


  • First draft DRM requirements produced
  • Calls for Contributions issued on
  • Rights traditionally enjoyed by end users
  • Levies
  • Broadband access
  • Standards development workflow
  • End-to-end conformance
  • TC1, TC3 and TC4 work begins


  • TC2 work begins


  • Draft DRM requirements
  • Draft reports on
  • Blank media levy phase out
  • Broadband access)
  • Sustainable innovation
  • Call for Proposal on DRM technologies
  • 2005 work plan agreed





  • Final DRM requirements




  • Final "Specifications for interoperable DRM"
  • Final "Recommended Practices for end-to-end conformance"
  • Final "Recommended Practices for end-user device human-machine nterfaces"
  • Final "Recommended Actions on blank media levy phase out"
  • Final "Recommended Action on broadband access"
  • Final "Recommended Actions on sustainable innovation"
  • 2006 work plan agreed

4.4. Charter

See The Digital Media Project Statures

5. Benefits of the Digital Media Project

6. Acronyms




Advanced Audio Coding


Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line


Broadband Wireless Fixed Access


Community Antenna Television


Compact Disc


Consumer Electronics


Common Interface


Create, Move, Store and Use


Digital Audio Tape


Digital Compact Cassette


Digital Media


Digital Rights Management


Digital Terrestrial Television


Digital Versatile Disc


General Packet Radio Services


Intellectual Property


Intellectual Property Management and Protection




Intellectual Property Right


Internet Service Provider


Information Technology


Moving Picture Experts Group


MPEG-1 Audio Layer III


Original Equipment Manufacturer


Over The Air




Personal Computer


Personal Video Recorder


Service Provider


Set Top Box


Vertical Helix Scan


Very Small Aperture Terminal


Wireless Local Area Network