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Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Microsoft aims to universal standard for easy Music, Video distribution

A new group of companies that includes Microsoft and Universal Music plans to make it easier to play music and videos across competing technologies.

The Content Reference Forum aims to publish standards to allow consumers to play music or other digital content encoded in one format to play easily on any device and in any country while also obeying contractual obligations, such as paying licensing fees and enforcing copyright protections.

Competing technologies result in a lack of interoperability among formats and devices that limit the ways consumers can enjoy digital content, the group's founders say.

The group has published its first set of standards that would use Internet-based references to identify content and the business agreements attached to them. Under this scheme, devices would be sent Internet-based links instead of music files, for instance, and by accessing the link would be sent a song in the proper format and under terms set by the content owners.

The groups behind the effort include ARM, ContentGuard, Macrovision, Microsoft, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Universal Music Group and VeriSign.

A main goal of the group is to encourage companies to use interoperability as the basis of new businesses.

The standards will be voted on by the groups members, then made available for licensing by mid-2004, the group said.

There is no guarantee the standards will be embraced. Businesses may decide it makes better sense to push proprietary technologies that force consumers to buy their products rather than make their content playable on a competitor's product.

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