@ 3GSM: Real Call For End To DRM Arms Race

The music downloads business needs to adopt common digital rights management standards, according to John Giamatteo, RealNetworks’ EVP for worldwide business products and innovative operations. Speaking at the 3GSM mobile industry congress in Barcelona today, Giamatteo suggested the DRM arms race of competing formats was holding back growth in the sector. “We absolutely believe it has a role to play in the industry,” Giamatteo said. “There’s got to be a balance in terms of protecting the rights of the artists … but, at the same time, standardizing a technology that will allow consumers to use it across a variety of platforms. Having a proprietary, closed Apple or Zune solution is not good for mass consumption of these things.”

Giamatteo likened the current DRM tussle to the mobile industry’s drive to adopt a common protocol in its own early days: “What would have happened had we all [developed] five different implementations of mobility? The GSM standard brought down the prices of infrastructure and handsets and allows us to serve emerging markets more cost-effectively. We need to fix it as a technology and get some better standards that we all can work with … working together to balance rights and fair use for consumers.”

Real’s CEO Rob Glaser told the Midem music conference in Cannes last month that the music industry should abandon restrictive DRM for individual digital music downloads in favor of open standards. Real currently operates its own multi-platform Helix DRM, which has not managed to gain much traction. It previously launched Harmony to reverse-engineer DRM formats from Apple and Microsoft, allowing songs downloaded from Real’s own Rhapsody store to play on iPods – a move that had Apple comparing the company to a “hacker.”