PARIS If the founder of MPEG has his way, a call to political action might drive engineers from their ivory towers to grapple with knotty political issues that have slowed the progress of a promised digital media revolution.
Leonardo Chiariglione, founder of Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), said this week that a new international group of experts, participating from 21 countries, has completed a document called The Digital Media Manifesto. It spells out both political and technical actions needed for a global digital media industry to flourish.
Frustrated with the digital media logjam that has held back the introduction of commercially viable digital content, the Manifesto's authors hope to use it as a springboard for organizing a non-profit group called Digital Media Project (DMP). The group is scheduled to begin work Jan. 1, 2004.
Despite the promise of digital media, Chiariglione said the "potential is being stifled by untapped technology, illegitimate businesses and legitimate business models that are money-losers for everybody involved."
Jordan Greenhall, founder and chief executive of DivXNetworks, one of the Digital Media Manifesto contributors, said the new Digital Media Project differs from earlier efforts. First, "it has at its core the recognition that digital media has so far failed." He added that the new group's "heart is this recognition, and the determination to change that by tracking down all of the reasons for this failure to root."
Greenhall also stressed the cross-disciplinary nature of the new group. "Too many global initiatives are insular."
Most of the digital rights management initiatives (DRM) launch so far tend to be "business specific," said Chiariglione. "MPEG-21 develops technology components [and the] Digital Media Project integrates the system. These are different functions."
Stressing that the group's DRM platform will be business agnostic, Chiariglione added, "The Digital Media Project takes into account the user and the rights holders with their expectations based on decades of actual use of media to design an interoperable DRM platform."
Perhaps the biggest difference in the Digital Media Project is its determination to tackle policy issues head on.Although policy issues may appear intractable, Greenhall said, "they have to be solved."
He said the new group "can bring a broad and experienced view of policy issues from a global perspective."
The policy statement stresses acting on two fronts technical and legal to break the digital logjam. Efforts to break the stalemate "have failed because of fragmented efforts stemming from beliefs that law alone or technology alone could do the job, leaving the business players to sort out the mess," it states. "What is needed is synergistic actions on both the legislative and technological fronts."
The group advocates ensuring basic user rights, phasing out legislative compensation for use of recording equipment and media for private copying and revising standardization and licensing processes.
The group also hopes a DRM platform should spell out traditional user rights and in the Digital Age. The Manifesto argues that consumers should not have to buy incompatible devices for similar services and that content creators should be able to access the DRM platform.
Chiariglione stressed that the Project will not be involved in implementing digital rules. For example, "the DRM platform will be designed to technically support rights and usages traditionally enjoyed by end users. However, it will be the task of individual jurisdiction [to decide] which of those rights to mandate."
According to a spokesman for the new group, dozens of individuals have been involved so far but no companies. "The Digital Media Manifesto was open to individuals. DMP will be open to company membership."