I recently caught up with Hank Risan, CEO of Media Rights Technologies (MRT). Not long ago I wrote about how they provide technologies that secure audio in PCs and MACs. They also have a highest quality audio streaming service at BlueBeat.com. When I visited earlier this year, Risan was traveling, so it was useful and interesting to speak with him recently and get the MRT story directly from the CEO.
In understanding MRT’s approach to Digital Rights Management, turns out it’s helpful to understand something of Risan, whose background includes mathematics and neurobiology. In our conversation, Risan noted that he had been fascinated with the brain and its workings from an early age. “As cyberspace grew more complex, I translated my theories into intellectual property designed for evolving technologies in information sciences and, more specifically, solutions for digital rights management,” said Risan
One might think of the brain as a most complex distributed processing system. Although the mechanisms are obviously different, Risan and CTO and co-inventor Ted Fitzgerald have conceptualized the DRM problem holistically, as needing to protect content over all pathways end-to-end. One starting point has been to ensure that content was protected after being decrypted and while traveling along the data pathways within computers (and other devices), and then extending that protection out to the relevant portions of the network-as-system. This “bottoms-up” approach differs from those who begin with content, rights servers, and DRM-enabled client applications and get to the data pathways within devices last, if at all.
I called Risan to talk about video. MRT recently put out a press release concerning their DRM product for protecting video, including DVD. As in the streaming audio world, they have taken a similar approach with protecting video. Where MRT technology is installed, in a computer, for instance, the data pathways over which the decrypted video travels are protected so that one can’t run an application that successfully grabs decrypted video out of memory or buffers. MRT’s complete DRM video solution, says Risan, protects video from source to consumer. Within the consumer’s environment protected video can only be accessed by authorized persons, for example, those who rent, buy, or subscribe to the protected content.
Risan noted that “various configurations of MRT’s video DRM solution can work with streaming video on the net, HDTV, and satellite, and with DVDs.” In the DVD case, certain information is stored on the DVD indicating that this is protected content. In one version of the MRT technology, the DVD remains playable in closed DVD players without interfering with the consumer experience. When the same DVD disk is put into a drive attached to a computer, it cannot be played unless the MRT technology is present. Other, even more secure configurations of the MRT video protection technology make the DVD playable only on an MRT-enabled device.
The May 3rd MRT press release is interesting because it focuses on applications of MRT’s video DRM technologies in the Adult Entertainment market. Recall that VHS won over Betamax, according to most sources, because distributors of Adult Entertainment strongly preferred VHS (since Betamax only provided an hour of time per tape). The rest is history.
Regardless of what one thinks of Adult Entertainment, keeping it out of the hands of children is one important and practical use of MRT’s video DRM. Back in April, MRT announced that one Adult Entertainment distributor had licensed the MRT video DRM technology and intended to protect eventually their entire back catalog.
As with its secure audio technologies, MRT has competitors in the video space as well. Microsoft and Intel are apparently cooperating to protect at least some of the video data path on computers configured as home entertainment / media centers. In the optical space, Macrovision’s RipGuard apparently takes a different approach to protecting movies on DVD disks.
Continue to keep an eye on MRT. The Adult Entertainment segment may (or may not) prove to be a great entry point for their video DRM technologies. However, lightning could strike twice in the same vertical market, so to speak. And look for coming announcements regarding their terrific BlueBeat.com highest quality audio streaming service.