January 19, 2005 11:40 AM PST

Home electronics giants launch antipiracy strategy

A group of big consumer technology companies have formed a new coalition aimed at developing a standard set of antipiracy tools for home electronics products.

The new group, called the Marlin Joint Development Association, is aimed at ensuring that copy-protected content such as music or videos can play on any kind of consumer electronics device, no matter which manufacturer. The group includes Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Sony, as well as digital-rights management company Intertrust Technologies.

With that goal in mind, the group's development is aimed squarely at Apple Computer and Microsoft, each of which use their proprietary digital-rights management (DRM) technologies for content distributed in their own media formats. That separation, which makes some content incompatible with some hardware--songs purchased at Microsoft's online music store can't easily be played on Apple's iPod, for example--is leading to consumer confusion, the Marlin companies say.

"The consumer electronics guys understand their customers better than anyone in this game," said Intertrust Chief Executive Talal Shamoon, whose company is helping provide Marlin's underlying technology. "TVs and DVD players work really well. This is an attempt to come up with a consumer electronics DRM that is tailored to those modes."

The rights management debate, while going on largely outside the public eye, could help define the winners and losers in the consumer electronics landscape for years to come.

Apple and Microsoft, neither of which is included in the Marlin group, each have a large stake in seeing their rights-management tools become more widely used.

Apple has resisted licensing its digital-music copy-protection technology as long as its iPod and iTunes Music Store are far more popular than any of their respective rivals. That has largely kept iPod users from shopping at any non-Apple digital music store.

In a different bid for universality, Microsoft does license its rights-management tools to anyone who asks in hopes that its Windows Media audio and video formats will become more widely used.

That jockeying for position among technology companies has frustrated record labels, which have appealed to Apple and others to ensure that digital music can be as widely used--without being limited to certain brands of devices--as a CD.

The Marlin group draws from the work of a previously formed coalition called the Coral Consortium, with much the same membership. That

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Shoot me now
This is going to end up bad for the market, I can already hear all of my friends say things like: "I wonder if this new release movie will play on my brand dvd player, or on my computer".

They should have (1) open standard, and if a better one comes out make that open standard. kind of like vcd, and svcd.
Posted by simcity1976 (136 comments )
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Too late?
Of course we wouldn't have this problem if this same group
hadn't been so greedy to begin with. They wanted absolute
control of when and where you could play their products and
new ways to charge us. Now they are upset they don't own the
standard. They only licensed content to Apple to start with
because they didn't see it as possibly being successful. Good
Posted by mudphud (137 comments )
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This will bomb!
What a joke.
Stick to mp3's.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
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iPod user can't shop anywhere else even if they wanted
iPod users or Mac users in general can't shop anywhere else
even if it was possible. All the other services are PC ONLY!
You can't even enter there sites let alone buy any music even if
the iPod was open. Microsoft requires IE 6.0 which Microsoft
convienently doesn't make for Macs. So why should Apple open
there doors when everyone else has there doors LOCKED!
Posted by jhorvatic (18 comments )
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