OMA DRM Patents Pooled For Easy Access
By Carlo Longino, Fri Jan 07 01:00:00 GMT 2005

Five companies have pooled together the patents needed for the Open Mobile Alliance DRM 1.0 spec, simplifying the licensing process for handset vendors and operators. Record labels and movie studios can now rest easy, evidently.

MPEG LA, which licenses the MPEG-2 video standard, says it has grouped together patents from five companies that are necessary to implement OMA's digital rights management 1.0 spec on mobile handsets, meaning handset manufacturers can do one-stop DRM shopping for $1 per handset, and content providers can use the standard for one percent of the consumer selling price of their product. MPEG LA now expects a rush of content to devices, with Hollywood execs sleeping soundly at night in the knowledge their music and movies aren't being strewn about by mobile pirates.

Okay, fair enough, certainly some content providers will feel more at ease with releasing their works into the mobile market, but today's news really doesn't do a whole lot for media-hungry consumers. While it may be nice that mobile companies have generally decided on OMA DRM as an industry-wide standard, it's still separate from standards on the wired Internet, where there's a whole separate mess of incompatible DRM technologies to navigate -- for instance, music from MSN's music store can't be played on Apple iPods, nor can music from the iTunes Music Store be played on WMA-compliant portable music players. So convergence, in most cases, is still a pipe dream for users that want to make their mobile phone their primary portable media device.

Unless content providers' attitudes towards DRM drastically change, what would be most beneficial for mobile users would be wide-scale settlement on a DRM standard spanning both the wired and mobile Internet. If a user buys an audiobook online, they should be able to listen to it on their computer or MP3 player or their phone. If a user buys a song on their mobile, they should be able to transfer it to any of their other devices. Handset vendors, mobile operators and content providers that don't embrace this do so at their own peril.

The mobile industry needs to break out of the ringtone mentality. Nobody's going to want to burn their ringtone to CD or listen to it again and again on their PC, but that doesn't mean that users will want to keep every piece of content purchased on a mobile locked to their handset. Convergence means more than simply making a device technically capable of multiple functionalities. It's also letting users' media content flow across multiple networks seamlessly.