This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Digital Rights Management

One of these days I should sort out a seperate work/life blog arrangement- until that day....

Last week I was invited to a conference on DRM at the IET (previously the IEE) in London. I wasn't speaking, but in the end the turnout was so small, and the Q&A sessions so long, that I got to yabber away for ages. Anyway, this is a mildly edited review of who was there and who did what:

Andy Liegh of the BBC explored the theoretical and historical background to cryptography- and the lessons from history he wanted to make clear are that:

* Pretty much any code can be broken. Bar one time pads. But they aren't appropriate fr broadcast.
* Only KEYs matter, time and money spent on keeping any other part of the system secret is wasted- this may have intimated that open source is a perfectly valid platform for DRM.
* Key management is a nightmare, and it's at its worst in the situation that digital tv broadcasts find themselves in.

Jim Wilkinson of Sony BPRL explored the various current technical 'tools' available to do DRM. This was an excellent introduction to the current available options.

* Fingerprinting (visible and invisible)
* Watermarking (robust and fragile)
* Message encryption
* Key exchange
* Message validation

Adrian Brazier (assistnt director, comms ad content industries, DTI) spoke about the governments planned role in the field of DRM, and in general indicated that there was a strong aversion to applying blanket regulation in this area. He highighted the key govt reviews in progress and which of these might impact DRM or copyright.

Len Withall of NDS (the people who do the cards for Sky boxes) spoke about his firms role in DRM and anti piracy. Len is a colourful character and his firm has been succesful in keeping the SKY encryption secure, but that's only a part of the who content custodianship landscape. NDS do more besides though, but weren't being s public about that.

Dr Myles Jelf of Bristows (lawfirm with IT and engineering specialism) gave a facinatng outline of the legal framework across the UK, europe and to a limited extent the world that DRM operates in. Much case law and precedent at present, and strong, flexible, globally applicable solutions that respect copyright and access exceptions seem unlikely for the foreseable future, even across europe. Myles is clearly brilliant, and very urbane and friendly. Lawyers can do that.

Simon Wakefield of Deloitte did a fairly standard consultancy futurologist schpeil, but in his Q&A session the discussion really got going about the applicability and extensability of content ownership models across developing media landscapes.

After lunch we had Ted Shapiro from the MPA- he's the top lawyear for hollywood in europe. Doesn't mince his words, enjoys getting easy wins in an argument, very fast talker, and has profound insight on (and some contempt for) for the way national governments in the EU hav tried to legislate for DRM. He'd easily come across as a bogeyman to many, and I think he's had run ins with Cory Doctorow.

Jill Johnstone from the national consumer council presented a case that current DRM implementations were being far too restrictive on consumer access to content. Hers was a somewhat lonely voice, but she had good points to make regarding exceptional access conditions and how these may be being eroded by stringent DRM implementations. She like everyone took pot shots at the Sony DRM debacle. In fact throughout the dy ythe technical, legal, and commercial error of the sony approach was routinely disected.

David Lancefield of PWC did an economic review of the role of DRM- looking at promotion or regulation. A high level pseudo legal philosophical review.

Finally Mark Jeffrey, a microsoft programme manager and raporteur for the ebu oulined a drm framework for use f media wihin the home that could offer a great deal of benefits for the future distribution of content. Called DVB CPCM this manages an authorised consumer domain and manages an end to end root of trust allowing more constent to be legally released to paying consumers. Mark was a facinating speaker and would be a brilliant contributor to future workshops.


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