Ever since content has existed, it had to be carried by some physical media, making possible the handling (viewing, listening, etc.) of the content by some appropriate physical device. In the age of the analogue media the connection between these two levels, the content and its handling technology was very tight, as the usage of the media always materially affected the content. This way the distinction between the medium and the content itself was blurred. This circumstance has strongly influenced the evolution of the media business, policies and legislation, and has shaped the form in which these issues exist today.

With the appearance of digital media, both the existing functionalities of the analogue media were extended and a wider set of functionalities was made possible. The Digital Media Manifesto (Manifesto 2003) calls this new experience, offered by the digital technology the Digital Media Experience. However, as the business and legislative models draw their origin from the analogue world, many practical solutions are lacking, and what is worse, some of new and innovative models appeared to be unprofitable or, sometimes even had to face legal prosecution.

This stalemate has both economic and social consequences. As digital media has the potential to become the major driver e.g. for the spreading of broadband access, or for the development of consumer electronics and the IT market, these industrial domains suffer vast economical damage from the stalemate on digital media. From the social point of view, further development of digital media could enhance education, information interchange and the overall well-being of individuals.

The vision of DMP is to break the stalemate regarding digital media: "The Digital Media Manifesto proposes to make an improved Digital Media Experience economically rewarding on a global scale, legitimate for the multiplicity of players on the value-chain and satisfactory for end-users, with the ultimate goal of realising a fuller Digital Media Experience”.

The Digital Media Project members – at present DMP is an organisation with members from circa 20 companies from all around the world –, have realized that the key for achieving this goal is in standardising DRM technology. By having a widely accepted standard for the whole DRM value-chain, the services and the devices would exploit the possibilities of the digital media more efficiently, thus not only promoting the acceptance of these technologies among the end-users, but also motivating the content creators to use digital technologies as new, inspiring media to distribute their work, relying on a dependable remuneration system.

From decomposition to interoperability
In the terminology of DMP (Terminology, 2005), all actors in the value-chain, irrespective of being at the beginning, somewhere in the middle or at the end of the chain are called users. The consumers, as the actors at the end of the value-chain are called end-users. Users perform certain functions to do business between each other. Functions are implemented using tools, which represent the underlying technologies that handle the digital media. The following figure shows the value chain as identified by the DMP (Architecture, 2005):
Figure 1: Digital media value-chain

The technology, thus including the underlying tools, is changing very rapidly, so it cannot be guaranteed that a function that has been used recently, or is used today in the value-chain, will exist unchanged for a longer period of time. For this reason, identified functions were decomposed into atomistic primitive functions, which, appeared to be quite stable from an examination of the development of both analogue and recent digital technologies. As they were constantly present in different functions throughout the continuously developing technologies, it was obvious that standardisation could be achieved by the standardisation of these primitive functions. In this way, any future function could be either composed using the already standardized primitive functions, or a new primitive function would have to be introduced, without modifying the original architecture of the standard. Primitive functions describe simple activities like for example "Identify data”, "Authenticate user”, or probably the most evident "Access content” (IDP Functions and Requirements, 2005).

The primitive functions are derived from the complex functions being used in today’s tools, which are on the other hand identified by examining several media usage scenarios, called use cases (Use Cases, 2005). As the use cases are based on the digital technologies in the form they exist today, or are planned to exist in the future, their analysis could result in DRM solutions that would alter the evolved balance between different users in the value-chain and modify the way they usually do or have done their mutual business. To prevent this effect, DMP has constructed an imposing list of 88 Traditional Rights and Usages (TRU-s). These rights and usages are used as guards to test whether standardised DRM technology would violate the scope of traditional expectations of different users in the value-chain, especially the end-users. As people’s expectations about DRM solutions are based on their present and past experiences, this is an effective way to ensure that a proposed DRM solution would not force the users against their needs, thus keeping the proposed DMP standard future-proof.

After having the past, the present and the future planned tools decomposed to the level of primitive functions, DMP has a level playing field, in which new standard tools can be assembled. The set of standardised DRM tools based on the primitive functions is a toolkit called the Interoperable DRM Platform (IDP), whose specification is the most important technical outcome planned by the Digital Media Project (Interoperable DRM Platform, 2005). This toolkit could provide both lightweight and heavyweight DRM solutions, depending of the specific needs (Chiariglione 2004).

In the terms of the DMP, interoperability means the ability of the users in the value-chain to execute functions using standardised tools, which have open specifications and are independently implemented. The IDP not only provides potential to implement a great variety of value-chains using standard technologies, but these value-chains also remain compatible, as they are built up from interoperable tools. Furthermore, lower prices and higher level of services are expected for the benefit of the end-users, not only because of the reusability of the standard tools, but because of the higher level of competition between different device manufacturers and service providers, as both the tools and different services could be supplied by multiple, competing parties.

These properties envision, that IDP may release the tension between interoperability and information security described in (cf. van Daalen 2004). In the terms of the DMP every manufacturer is applying pieces from the same "democratic” standard, as there are no producers which can be called "third parties”, who can be admitted to or barred from the market, and the regulation of DRM solutions is not enforced by governments, but the standard alone. Competing producers on the market can really concentrate on the services their devices offer, knowing, that the underlying interoperable DRM solution is secure enough to protect the contents.

The role Traditional Rights and Usages
There are several actors in the value-chain, having different interests. Diffusion of a standard technology is highly influenced by having the proper respect of the rights of every value-chain member. In fact it is an important aspect of standardization to decide which functions and rights should be mandatory in the standard, and which should be left open to negotiations between different value-chain users. However meeting the end-users’ expectations has the most important role in fostering the acceptance of a DRM solution.

To achieve this goal, DMP has stated that both technological and legal aspects of DRM need the existing policies to be revised. From the legal point of view maybe the most important, but merely general stated goal is that basic user rights, as traditionally enjoyed by end-users should be ensured. The list of Traditional Rights and Usages is an irreplaceable tool in being attentive to this goal, as DMP not only improves the support of TRUs by describing scenarios of how these rights and usages could be supported, but is also deriving additional Tools and Use Cases from scenarios, to see, whether present demands can be fulfilled relying on the standard being developed. Being successful in this would mean that presumably any future demand would also be met.

On the other hand, from the purely technological point of view, several main features are defined, which a widely accepted DRM solution must provide. Beside the requirement that all users in the value chain must have technical ability to access the standardized DRM platform, and that this access should be done with a single device for similar services, it is also stated that the rights and usages traditionally enjoyed by end-users should be technically supported.

As for "fair use”, being an essential traditional use enjoyed by end-users, the DMP terminology does not talk about the right to copy content for one’s own purposes, but it speaks generally about the "ability to make continued access”, which is again more general, but also more abiding. This includes the "right to time shift” or the "right to space shift” content, which mean respectively to access "owned” content anytime and anywhere.

Based on their origin, Traditional Rights and Usages are classified into the following groups:
  • Already-established legislative TRUs of content creators and end-users.
  • Commercial and remuneration TRUs of direct economic significance.
  • TRUs related to general social liberties.
  • Fundamental TRUs from historical practice and interaction with analogue media.
  • Consumer-choice TRUs relevant to the high-tech environment.

So, basically, TRUs are here as safeguards, to protect DMP from derailing; however, an identified, defined and described TRU does not necessary mean, that a user should have a right to use the digital media in the specified way, but it only indicates that different value-chain users, especially the end-users would probably be interested in using the digital media in the same way. TRUs simply express the users expectations, which may change very slowly compared to the technology, but respecting them has an ultimate role in the acceptance of a DRM standard.

Bottom line
At the present state of its work the DMP has released a Call for Contributions "Mapping of Traditional Rights and Usages to the Digital Space" (Call for Contributions, 2005). In this call the DMP is expecting contributors to define, in what form Traditional Rights and Usages could be supported by the Interoperable DRM Platform. Several most important rights and usages are chosen from the list of TRUs, and as a result of this process, Recommended Actions will be developed that are to be presented to governments and regulators. Having presented the basics in this article, in the next issue of the INDICARE Monitor we will try to figure out the pros and cons of the DMP approach.


About the author: Ernő Jeges is a researcher at Budapest University of Technology and Economics in the SEARCH Laboratory. His research areas are mainly focused on biometric security solutions, but he was involved in a number of research activities dealing with IT security and the technology aspects of digital rights. He received an MSc in computer science from BUTE in 1995. Contact:

Status: first posted 23/06/05; included in INDICARE Monitor Vol. 2, No. 4, 24 June 2005; licensed under Creative Commons