Microsoft Ramps Up DRM Work

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With ever more songs, pictures, and video clips being sent over the airwaves to mobile phones, Microsoft plans to beef up its investment in digital rights management (DRM) technologies to help protect copyrighted material, the company said Wednesday on the opening day of CTIA Wireless 2006 in Las Vegas.

Microsoft provided no financial details, saying only that the investments will be "significant." It plans to extend its Windows Media Digital Rights Management software to support new types of wireless services, it said.

The company said it was responding to demands from its wireless partners who want new ways to deliver content protected by copyright. The more than 800 million mobile handsets sold worldwide each year represent a largely untapped market for digital entertainment, representatives said.

The DRM Debate

DRM is a catch-all term for a variety of methods used to limit content-sharing and protect copyright of the content. Techniques include digital encryption of songs and encoded limits on the number of times content can be accessed.

DRM has its supporters and critics. Music and film industry officials say the technology is crucial to preserving revenue in the face of piracy. But consumer advocates argue that it can be too restrictive for consumers who legitimately paid for content and want to share it on several devices.

Windows Media Digital Rights Management is licensed for use with more than 100 content services and hundreds of devices, according to the company. It protects content for delivery to PCs, mobile phones, and other portable devices.

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