Eight media and technology companies will today announce a new 'universal' DRM system designed to protect digital content but still allow consumers the freedom to use purchased material in whatever (legal) ways they choose.
The Advanced Access Content System (AACS) will let users make copies and share content across home networks. Content can be transferred to personal computers and portable players.
AACS will be made available for licensing later this year, but the companies behind it - IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Toshiba, Matsushita, Warner Bros. and Disney - are initially looking to see what reaction the technology gets from content providers and producers.
The first four companies on the list already offer or are contributing to the development of DRM technology, so it's to be hoped AACS will provide a framework through which different DRM systems can interoperate. That's certainly an issue with current DRM schemes, which are tailored to specific file formats, players and content providers.
As yet, there's no truly universal DRM scheme that echoes the universality of, say, the CD. A disc from any music label can be bought in (theoretically) any record store and played on any number of systems. That's not the case with downloads.
The AACS companies will also need to win over optical media consortia, such as the DVD Forum and the DVD+RW Alliance, all of whom have their own takes on copy protection and rights management technologies. Again, to be truly effective, AACS has to make room for those. ®
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