Digital rights management experts seek revenue models

Making money from on-line music, movies or books may seem like an oxymoron today but if you know where to look there really is gold in them thar hills.

This was the message from attendees at this year’s Information Highways e-content conference in Toronto, who spent Monday discussing the future

of digital rights management. Like any new technology, DRM is experiencing typical early-days market confusion, said CEO of Xerox’s DRM spinoff ContentGuard, Mike Miron, but that shouldn’t confuse anyone about its future.

The morning’s keynote speaker, GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies president Bill Rosenblatt, acknowledged that in past few years, the DRM market has seen a significant decline. Business models for successfully commercializing online content have not brought the expected windfalls. But markets are emerging and opportunities are increasing for DRM software, Rosenblatt said.

E-books and e-document repositories are rather stable pay per download niche markets. In spite of the strength of peer-to-peer music download networks, Rosenblatt said, subscription music services are entering the scene as well. Video is a bit behind but that’s because the technology is still too unreliable, not because of lack of demand, he said.

He also talked about a “”bricks and bits”” model of music retailing that’s already taken off in Europe where music stores sell downloads of digital content as well.

Despite a slow start, Miron said the biggest DRM opportunities will come in ways we’ve not though up yet.

“”Look at the great paperless office. Conventional wisdom said that paper would disappear, that certainly hasn’t happened,”” he said. “”Paper is no longer a composition medium, but it’s still a great presentation medium.””

He also said that digital content producers are wrong to fear “”profitless prosperity.”” The fear, he explained, is that when original content enters the digital sphere it will be passed around to millions of people but it’ll be distributed in such a way that profiting through mass appeal will be impossible. And while it is true that the rules of traditional mass marketing don’t apply when it comes to the web, there is money to be made.

Successful business models will take advantage of what Web surfers are generally looking for online — an on-demand personalized experience and a sense of a community, he said. These will be new business models, Miron said, but those companies who know how to deliver to these three requirements will have access to huge, untapped markets.

Security is a huge issue when it comes to the digital content community and Rosenblatt told the conference that breaches should just be accepted. They will happen at some point; the question is how to minimize them and react to them once they happen.

“”There’s n

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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