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Peer-to-Peer Systems and Digital Rights Management - Peer to Peer File Sharing and Tools, Current Landscape, Digital Rights Management

media drm content multimedia

Definition: Peer to peer file sharing and the management and enforcement of digital rights remain two very important cogs in online multimedia e-commerce.

Peer to Peer File Sharing and Tools

While large multimedia repositories suchi Tunes and Download.com store media in an Organized and centralized fashion, other technologies allow multimedia to be replicated and distributed upon thousands of servers. In this latter case–the peer-to-peer case–only the media index may be centralized; the media themselves are stored on distributed servers. When a client wants a particular media the following main steps occur: 1) a search algorithm yields the best source(s) of the media for this user, 2) the transfer occurs (the media may arrive in chunks from different sources), 3) the media is recovered and validated at the client (e-payments may be made at this point), 4) the media and its new location are registered,allowing subsequent clients to be served the media from its new location. Decentralized media indices are another variation of these frameworks in which case no single server indexes all the media. At any rate, such systems (first popularized by Napster) allow the exchange of copyrighted media (e.g. music in mp3 format and movies in MPEG-4 format) and brought legality issues of file-sharing to the forefront in the late 1990’s. In 1999 the RIAA (backed by AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony) filed suit against Napster; the suit symbolically ended the era of care-free peer-to-peer exchange of copyrighted material.

Current Landscape

The current peer-to-peer file sharing landscape is dynamic. Napster has been reborn into an outlet for legal file exchange. It is joined by many other legal systems. In 2004, more than 200 million music tracks were downloaded and the related revenues increased sixfold from 2003. Some industry experts estimate the online music market at $660 million for 2005.

Digital Rights Management

Despite the systems and tools listed above experts agree that digital piracy of online multimedia will remain a threat. For this reason, Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are important. Simply put, DRM allows media rights holders to restrict the usage of media. Such restrictions are implemented by various technologies; for example, a rights database persists usage rights and policies of use, while a cryptographic layer provides the ‘lock and key’ that the rights holders requires. A common DRM issues is how to restrict content buyers from copying and redistributing media. As a case in point, at the time of writing the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) – a large and influential forum for mobile service enablers – is the proponent of a DRM standard for mobile wireless content. OMA’s DRM specification will consist of 1) a rights expression language, 2) a content format, and 3) a framework for content metadata. For rights holders wishing to allow e-commerce on mobile devices on the basis of their content, efforts like OMA’s DRM and others are key stepping stones.

Peierls, Sir Rudolf Ernest [next] [back] Peer-to-Peer Systems

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