The Axmedis project (cf. sources) aims at reducing the cost of cross-media production and distribution, at searching for and integrating objects and components and at managing and monitoring distribution. Axmedis is an integrated project (IP), funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework’s Information Society Technologies (IST) programme, with Paolo Nesi from the University of Florence as its co-ordinator. Since the project specifically aims at developing and providing methods and tools for innovative and flexible Digital Rights Management, it is particularly relevant concerning INDICARE.

To fulfil its objectives the project organized the Axmedis 2005 Conference with the title 1st International Conference on Automated Production of Cross Media Content for Multi-channel Distribution in Florence from November 30 to December 2, 2005. The three-day conference provided a rich programme. The speakers came from a wide range of organisations, thus researchers, delegates from industry, regulators and also consumer representatives were present. During the course of the conference one uncertain trend seemed to visualize for me: besides the regular scientific-, business- and industry-oriented issues, consumer-related talks could also be heard. Whether this marks the process of research and industry slowly taking the consumers’ view and requirements into account or this was just the specialty of this conference and proof of the skills of the conference organisers remains to be seen.

On the first day after the welcome speeches an invited talk started the conference. Afterwards the programme continued in three or even four parallel sessions. Besides the core Axmedis subjects including an Axmedis tutorial track throughout the conference and the "Axmedis Call for take up action", there was a panel on "The role of collecting societies in the digital era" (see later), an extensive MPEG Workshop, a special session of the EUAIN project (see later) and in addition the 3rd Virtual Goods Workshop, which was co-located with the conference (see later). By this approach it was possible to address the subject matter not only from a technological point of view but from the point of users and consumers too. The whole programme is available at the homepage of the conference and all papers are available in the conference proceedings (Nesi et al. 2005).

Due to this huge programme, I was not able to attend all presentations, thus the following report will just be a subjective glimpse of the whole event. Nevertheless it has to be stated that the organisers did their best with the conference and the event progressed smoothly.

Invited talk
After the welcome talks the conference started with the invited talk by Leonardo Chiariglione from the DMP project (cf. Jeges and Kerényi 2005). In his talk Chiariglione argued that the protection of intellectual property should be in balance with its use. Nowadays, when analogue is shifting to digital and thus the challenge of managing scarcity is changing to managing abundance he proposed a rational DRM architecture, which is both scalable and interoperable and composed of standard technology and equipment.

Security of DRM
That Axmedis successfully brought together parties with different goals and backgrounds and that such presentations can form a symbiotic whole (even following up Chiariglione’s vision of a rational DRM) were clearly illustrated by the next two talks given during the Content Security and Digital Rights Management session.

Josep Domingo-Ferrer presented a solution on multicast fingerprinting and collusion security. The main challenge solved was to equip multicast content with unique fingerprints, thus copy detection could be used complementary to copy prevention. This solution, which could find support in the technology domain, naturally is objectionable from the privacy (and thus the consumer’s) point of view (cf. presentation by Grimm later).

On the other hand José Prados explored the possibilities of interoperability of rights expression languages (RELs) and protection mechanisms. In particular he analyzed how the REL of OMA DRM 2 (cf. sources), i.e. ODRL (cf. sources), and that of MPEG-21 (cf. sources) could be converted into each other. While the presentation focused mainly on technical issues, interoperability, i.e. to rightfully consume protected content on any device was highlighted as one of the main consumer requirements for DRM.

Collecting societies
The panel session "The role of collecting societies in the digital era" provided an interesting insight into the challenges these organisations face with the switch to the digital content gaining momentum in the 21st century.

Maila Sansaini from IMAIE analysed DRM from the point of view of a collecting society. While DRM can protect against privacy by applying technical measures, helping in identifying works and allowing payment for the content it still has deficiencies: current solutions are not interoperable; they do not ensure equal remuneration of copyright and neighbouring rights holders and can also be cracked.

Dominic McGonigal from PPL, UK, did not analyze DRM, he rather chose the approach of introducing the operation and problems of a collecting society to the audience. By describing the internal processes of his organisation, how the huge volume of music content is managed, how licences are stored and usage information is processed in order to distribute income between producers and performers, DRM architecture designers could gain insight into the life of a potentially important DRM system user.

Another session focusing mainly on the consumer was related to the interconnection of DRM and accessibility. This track was assigned to EUAIN, the European Accessible Information Network (cf. sources).

In the first talk David Crombie introduced the core idea behind EUAIN. He emphasized that current practice is to apply quick fixes to fill the gaps in order to achieve accessibility, while in the long term accessibility can only be achieved if it is managed as a process throughout the life-cycle of a product. This change of mind is promoted by EUAIN, and IST-funded project to promote eInclusion as a horizontal building block in the establishment of the information society.

Roger Lenoir continued by exploring the possibilities and achievements of open software and open standards as tools for accessibility. In his presentation he compared the associations representing visually impaired people with the open source communities, where in both cases voluntary work dominates. Finally, Lenoir introduced some current projects (DAISY, NIMAS, WCAG) focusing on accessibility.

Virtual Goods Workshop
This year the Virtual Goods Workshop was co-located with the Axmedis 2005 Conference. This series of workshops focuses on the multi-disciplinary assessment of existing DRM technologies and business models. Unfortunately I could not attend the whole workshop, only the first part, thus the following is a partial overview of this year’s event.

In his presentation Stephen Saunders evaluated the current shift in the music industry from distributing music through retail stores towards the thousand-faceted digital distribution. His argument was that it was high time to start to change the way music is regarded: industry should move from thinking of music as a good to using it as a service with different service levels for different users.

Prof. Rüdiger Grimm, University of Koblenz (formerly at TU Ilmenau) introduced the results of an analysis aiming at evaluating privacy issues during DRM usage (Grimm et al. 2005). Although DRM systems’ main goal is to enforce copyright, they are sometimes also used for recognition of bad behaviour, to deliver personalized watermarks and other technological methods interfering with privacy. Grimm presented results of data flow evaluations with concrete DRM architectures before completing a deal, at checkout, while checking the right during consumption, through special services and even through hidden interfaces.

Another presentation, given by Matthias Spielkamp from strengthened the consumer representation at Axmedis. He introduced this German organisation which aims at delivering information about legal aspects of DRM to the consumers. The main goal is to inform the users about the legal background of typical use cases (e.g. downloading content from a peer-to-peer network or ripping a CD) in an independent way.

Bottom line
The Axmedis 2005 conference presented a good mix of research- or industry-driven and consumer-oriented talks. Although the project itself was mainly technology focused, the organisers did a great job in inviting a broad spectrum of presenters. As an advocate of the INDICARE project who is always looking at the end-users’ point of view when it comes to DRM and generally to multimedia-relates issues, I am looking forward to the next Axmedis conference in December 2006 to see whether the shift towards a more consumer-centric view will further evolve. Could it be that this conference marked the start of a larger trend? I do hope so.


About the author
Gergely Tóth is a PhD student at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in the SEARCH Laboratory. Besides Digital Rights Management his core interests include security and privacy. You can contact him at

Status: first posted 20/12/05; licensed under Creative Commons