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Issues and challenges in securing interoperability of DRM systems in the digital music market

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In the digital music market (and accompanying digital players), use of different digital rights management (DRM) systems, have effectively locked-in consumers to proprietary technologies of respective companies. Currently, no single DRM standard exists for digital music, therefore, music purchased from one competitor may not be compatible with another competitor's jukebox software or digital player. There is little incentive for leading competitors to license their technology or provide support for other technologies to enable interoperability of different technologies. Consequently, consumers purchasing from such competitors in-effect become locked into their proprietary technology and its accompanying DRM systems. This paper examines the consequences of such market behaviour focusing on the most popular music store iTunes (owned by Apple), its dominance in the industry and the implications of Apple's decision not to open its FairPlay DRM scheme that controls all music purchased from iTunes. It discusses the attempt by RealNetworks to secure interoperability with Apple's FairPlay scheme and the resultant response of Apple. Finally, it examines the potential benefits, problems and legal issues raised by the actions of RealNetworks and argues for interoperability.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2006

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