May 5, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Anticopying fight mars mobile music

A tussle over antipiracy technology is looming over the young mobile phone content business, with big phone companies claiming that new music and video services could be derailed as a result.

At issue is a set of technologies aimed at protecting music and other content from being indiscriminately copied after being sold through mobile phone networks, a critical component of the new content services if record labels and movie studios are to sign on.

For more than a year, the mobile industry has been converging on a standard set of antipiracy technologies, which could help avoid the fragmentation that separates Microsoft and Apple Computer products in the PC world. But now patent holders including Sony and others have put a price tag on that technology, and some of the biggest phone companies say it's too expensive.

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Patent holders have put a price tag on copy-protection standards for the mobile phone content business, and some of the biggest phone companies say it's too expensive.

Bottom line:
The carriers have threatened to look elsewhere, a development that could help rival copy-protection developers such as Microsoft.

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The carriers have threatened to look elsewhere--a development that could help rival copy-protection developers such as Microsoft--even if it slows down the release of their services and leads to incompatible products.

"It's disappointing that the (licensing group) has not taken onboard our previous concerns," Frank Boulben, executive vice president of British cell phone company Orange, said in a statement released by carriers Wednesday. "The current...proposals will lead to fragmentation owing to unacceptability, and critically delay launches of these new mobile services."

The rights-management component is an obscure but critical piece of a business that is attracting millions of dollars of investment in Asia and Europe, and is likely to launch in the United States later this year. Cell phone carriers that have spent billions on wireless high-speed data spectrum are eager to recoup their expenditure, and are turning to music and video downloads as their most promising early services.

Already a handful of mobile download services similar to Apple's iTunes Store have launched overseas. Vodafone has launched music stores across Europe, with the help of France's Musiwave. Germany's T-Mobile is offering short versions of songs, while Japan's KDDI has predicted that music downloads will add $70 million to its annual bottom line in just a few years.

The start-ups that power these services have used a variety of technologies to protect their content. Some, like Seattle-based Melodeo, use their own digital rights management. Others are using technology based on the standards developed by the Open Mobile Alliance group over the past several years.

How much is too much?
The OMA technology is now turning out to be a hurdle, however. As with other standards, the underlying technology is actually owned by other companies, in this case Sony, ContentGuard Holdings, InterTrust Technologies, Matsushita Electric Industrial and Koninklijke Philips Electronics.

A central body called MPEG LA is handling the overall licenses for those companies, as it is for other similar patent groups. In January, that group suggested that companies that want a license should

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11 comments

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ho-hum
another story of industry greed hampering progess, denying US consumers services becoming common in other countries while they wrangle over how best to extract every last penny from their dying monopoly. By the time they agree, consumers will have found out how to work around the system and load music onto their cell phones for free and no one will care.
some one should remind them that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and that threatening to sue your dog is no way to improve your hunt.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is why Steve Jobs is King
A few weeks ago there was a story about the record companies whining about how much power Steve Jobs has. But the fact is that Steve Jobs did it right and the record companies keep bumbling their way through the downloadable music industry. It's unbelievable that they still can't get it right after 10 years!!!
Posted by frankz00 (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Exactly!
They're complaining about $0.25 a year, and they charge $3.00 for a crappy 30 second rendition of a song for a ring tone. iTunes lets you listen to a 30 second snippet for free.

The first phone network to use Motorola's phones is going to make a lot of customers very happy. It'll slingshot some brave company to the top of the heap.
Posted by samkass (310 comments )
Link Flag
Much ado about nothing....
...that I'm interested in. All I ask from a cell phone is clear
reliable voice communications where ever I happen to be.

I don't want music - that's what my iPod does so much better.

I don't want ring tones - the oines supplied are quire adequate,

I don't want a camera, or text messaging, or web access. I
already have several digital cameras, text messaging is an over-
priiced teen-age fantasy, and my computers already provide real
web access.

I don't even want voice mail. Just give me a cell phone that does
what it is supposed to do, not an overkill of irrelevant functions.

So the GRM Association/Alliance can shove their suggested
services and charges. Copy protection is not wanted, nor
needed. DRM is a laugh. I love Apple, but like I said, I already
have computers and the iPod.

I know other people have other ideas of what a cell phone shuld
do. That's fine, I hope someone makes a cell phone that meets
their expectations. I just want a cell phone that meets mine.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good Luck
It is still possible to find a phone that meet your need, but ... the service provider will still give you text messaging, voice mail and other add-ons, maybe free or not free. As of voice quality ... well, landline is still much better :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Agreed
Let's just tell our cell phone service providers not to bother, that
no one wants to pay 2.5 times as much for the 'convenience' of
buying music through your cell phone. We're all quite capable of
waiting until we get home and using the broadband service
we're already paying for thank you very much.

You know what's going to happen of course is that, like video
messaging, this will prove to be another dead duck and the bill
for the phone companies' screw-ups will simply be passed on to
the consumer anyway.

This is why I have kept the same cell phone for the last five
years.

I don't want a colour display - why the hell would I? I want to
talk on this thing not look at it.

I don't want a crappy barbie camera for taking pictures - cell
phone cameras will never match real cameras because even if
you cram 10million pixels in there the ultimate limit in
resolution is defined by the size of the lens aperture and they're
just too damn small.

I don't want to listen to music on it - what, so when I finally get
some peace and quiet to listen to my iPod it gets interrupted by
the phone ringing?

I want a means of making and receiving calls when I need it,
that's it.

Stop the cell phone microconvergence now. Please.
Posted by privatec (75 comments )
Link Flag
Who should pay for DRM?
The only sector wanting DRM are the rights holders.
Device makers should be PAID to add a "feature" that lessen their products' usability.
Consumers should get some other benefits in return to put up with the annoyances of DRM. A device with DRM should be less expensive than one without.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They should do it without the DRM, and encourage user participation
What cellphone companies should do is just go ahead without the DRM, and without the content from the RIAA/MPAA.

What they might do, instread of supplying the same limited collection of medicre content, is create something entirely new: have free content made available for free by users. Have teenagers record things and put them online for their friends and for the friends they would make online (or on-phone). What I mean: create a toatlly new experience. Find a way to make teenagers make the content themselves. Perhaps make some kind of teenage "multimedia blogosphere" that's cellphone based. Find a model of doing it that the teenagers would get addicted to. And leave the RIAA/MPAA to do their stuff the way they're used to (selling/renting plastic discs). If they'll do it right, they kind create a new way to have fun, without having to pay or to satisfy the "content industry".
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why should I pay twice?
If I have paid for a CD of music didn't I pay for the right to listen to it on any device that I own? Can't I copy that CD to an MP3 player and listen to it on that device without paying again? Can't I copy that music onto my computer's hard drive? Why am I being restricted from copying that same music to my phone to play when a call comes in? What happened to fair use? Who is going to protect the end user? It looks to me like we are on our own here folks. Do not stand silent in the face of activities that you do not agree with.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Charging to PROTECT the music?
Seems to me that the music industry should be paying the cell phone companies "protection money" to motivate them to incorporate the necessary protection.

I say, don't pay the extortion - put the cell phones on the market WITHOUT any copy protection!
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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