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Microsoft Patents Software Technology

Microsoft Awarded Patent For Peer-To-Peer DRM 151

Posted by kdawson
from the in-it-for-the-royalties dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Music DRM might not be as dead as previously thought. InformationWeek reports that Microsoft has been awarded a digital-rights management patent for a distributed DRM system that works over peer-to-peer networks and uses encrypted public and private keys as the licensing mechanism. The author claims that patent number 7,594,275, entitled simply 'Digital rights management system,' is significant because, while centralized music stores like iTunes don't use DRM anymore, the Microsoft patent makes it possible that peer-to-peer networks could reemerge in the future as a viable, albeit protected, source of content."
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Microsoft Awarded Patent For Peer-To-Peer DRM

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  • idiots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:26AM (#29512709) Homepage Journal

    "embrace" and all that?

    Look:

    it possible that peer-to-peer networks could reemerge in the future as a viable, albeit protected, source of content."

    re-emerge? they're already here, and not going away
    viable? check, they are today
    source of content? check, massively

    protected? who wants that? There's no demand on the customer side. Unprotected will always win. Heck, I've downloaded cracks for games that I bought and I'm sure if I were to ask for a show of hands, it would be huge.

    How about making content more convenient instead of more troublesome? Maybe then you'd stand a chance, you know?

    • If DRM didn't work for music, why on Earth does Microsoft think it will work for p2p software? Another question: If we have a DRM-free p2p protocol like BitTorrent, why on Earth does Microsoft think that people are going to flock to their proprietary, restricted protocol?
      • Re:Question (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tom (822) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:37AM (#29512765) Homepage Journal

        Because so far, they've been very successul in forcing expensive shit down people's throats while free alternatives were available.

        Except that they still haven't adopted for a world with Internet. :-)

      • by IBBoard (1128019)

        If we have a DRM-free p2p protocol like BitTorrent, why on Earth does Microsoft think that people are going to flock to their proprietary, restricted protocol?

        ISPs.

        Or, more specifically, if Microsoft can make this completely different in packet appearance to "open" protocols like BitTorrent then the ISPs could very well end up throttling BitTorrent back to nothing (under the flawed argument of "pirated content" - Linux uses BitTorrent legitimately, you know) and leave the DRMed version running a full speed.

        • by bami (1376931)

          ISP's have no reason to listen to music industry lobbiests. They want to keep the maximum amount of money rolling in while spending the least on the actual infrastructure. Bittorrent, usenet and other P2P services consume a lot of bandwidth, with a relative small fraction of the subscribers using it (Pretty much the 20% of the users generating 80% of the traffic 'law'). They decrease the load on the network by throttling those users.

          Other P2P networks also give network problems (lots of packages flooding th

          • by IBBoard (1128019)

            Music lobbiests to ISPs is likely to be indirect. The lobbiests lobby the government that "all file sharing is illegal" and "BitTorrent is illegal", the government doesn't have a clue and follows the line, the government legislates against "illegal file sharing such as BitTorrent", Microsoft then says "ours is okay, because we have DRM", the government puts in an exception for "controlled and approved P2P" and everyone at a large corporation cheers.

            Yes, the ISPs want to cut the use of their network by remov

      • You've forgotten to take into account that the MS board are living in the 90's. They missed the news the rest of us saw about IT evolving beyond them. They still believe they are the top dog who can do whatever they want and people will swallow it.
      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        Stupidity would be my guess.

        The people who make these decisions, know nothing of the real world because they don't live in it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shikaku (1129753)

      Heck, I've downloaded cracks for games that I bought and I'm sure if I were to ask for a show of hands, it would be huge.

      *Raises hand*

      Needs slashdot poll. And a citation too, but a scientific poll would be nice too.

    • by Ed Avis (5917)
      Let's get one thing straight: a software patent, granted to Microsoft or anyone else, does not 'make it possible'. People are quite able to implement computer systems without getting a patent first. If anything, having software patents covering an idea makes it less likely to happen. (If the swpats are not really enforceable, then their effect is smaller, but they can still be used to harass.)
    • Re:idiots (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tynin (634655) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:36AM (#29512999)
      Maybe this is what you were getting at with your

      "embrace" and all that?

      but perhaps they are getting a patent on this in order for them to bring suit against any other bittorrent client that uses encryption, effectively making them to remove the encryption "feature" or face imminent pestering by a small horde of MS lawyers. Sure, they couldn't do much, at first to developers in other countries. But as the Pirate Bay trial has shown us, other(and more over time) countries tend to be making pro-IP choices. Thankfully, MS hasn't gone all RIAA on the world of software on a grandma by grandma basis... yet. But who knows, maybe they have a serious, long term, view(war) on the nature of how bittorrent and other p2p software will no doubt develop. So perhaps they are seriously going the road of the 3 E's yet again.

      Getting the traffic your client makes to be encrypted, especially now p2p is so prevalent, simply will become a good idea if net neutrality doesn't come about. Or even just to finally flood the internet with so much encrypted traffic to give a big middle finger to all the intelligence (and no doubt ad) agencies of the world trying to read what we do and profile us on our own tax dollars.

      I am kind of concerned with this development, but I guess it is just one concern on a pile of many. We really need to do something about software patents...

      OK, no more to drink tonight... to paranoid ;-)

      ::refits tin foil hat::

      • It seems that most people stop at software patents. But like the killer weed in the other article posted today, the assumption that patents are good will die hard. To do something about just software patents will only do minor damage as the lawyers will try to find some other way to keep software patents around without actually calling them that.

        Better to do away with patents altogether.
      • but perhaps they are getting a patent on this in order for them to bring suit against any other bittorrent client that uses encryption, effectively making them to remove the encryption "feature" or face imminent pestering by a small horde of MS lawyers.

        The patent covers the narrow case where encryption is used to implement a DRM-type system (which we all know is ineffective, but put that aside for a moment) NOT the more general idea of using encryption in network communications, which is both obvious to anyone "skilled in the art" (programming in this case) and well covered by prior art. Besides, do you really believe that open-source bit-torrent clients with mirrored servers located all over the world (including places which don't really give a crap abou

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Heck, I've downloaded cracks for games that I bought

      Proving once again that DRM only hurts paying customers. It's pretty damned stupid of any company to reduce useability and value for your paying customers who would be better off just pirating it. It's backwards. Add value for paying customers that the pirates can't have, and then stop worrying about the damned pirates.

      We are in this economic mess because today's businesspeople are greedy morons.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Heck, I've downloaded cracks for games that I bought

        Proving once again that DRM only hurts paying customers. It's pretty damned stupid of any company to reduce useability and value for your paying customers who would be better off just pirating it. It's backwards. Add value for paying customers that the pirates can't have, and then stop worrying about the damned pirates.

        We are in this economic mess because today's businesspeople are greedy morons.

        Unfortunately, these days, cracks are pretty iffy. Half of th

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          So not only does DRM promote piracy, it propogares malware, too. Sounds like somebody ought to outlaw it.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      How about making content more convenient instead of more troublesome?

      Seems you are new here, nothing is done FOR the consumer, its done TO them. We are all just evil thieves in the minds of the content providers and are treated as such.

  • DRM Keys (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EnigmaticSource (649695) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:30AM (#29512727) Homepage

    Perhaps I missed this in the TFA, but how exactly do they plan on actually releasing the keys? The whole point of DRM is to keep the keys out of your reach. I cannot think of a single, viable way to hide the key exchange without some black-box single point of distribution. Sure you can distribute the encrypted content via P2P... but unless the keys are decentralized as well... calling it a P2P system is just a touch disingenuous.

    The key-servers still will represent a single point of failure, and a single point of ownership. Now we'll just pay for most of the bandwidth instead of them.

    • Re:DRM Keys (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tom (822) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:35AM (#29512757) Homepage Journal

      Didn't RTFA either, but there are several distributed key systems where you can send a key to X people and if Y of them (with Y=X, and it can be a specific number) come together, they can decrypt. Something like that could work in a P2P system where you could have several distributed points of authority instead of one, none of them holds "the key", and some of them can go down and you can still assemble the key from the remaining ones.

      • Yes, I am familiar with that idea... the point however is access control. How do you decide the X lucky recipients of your partial key? How do you assume they are trustworthy? Then again, if you're not watching the logs, how to you know they aren't cheating the system, and trying to assemble the full key without your permission?

        The whole point of DRM is to give permission when you wish. Any system that allows someone to skip asking permission, and later beg forgiveness is broken. In that same vein, any

        • by Tom (822)

          I can think of several cryptographic approaches, depending on what exactly it is you want.

          You could combine distributed keys with a one-time key system, which would of course require additional DRM on the client side, but it would solve the "secret assembly" problem.

          You could set up a network of competing key holder notes, who are paid (by the consumer, of course) for their key parts. Since the key parts have value in this system, it would be irrational for them to share them with the competitors.

          It would b

        • by Tynin (634655)

          How do you decide the X lucky recipients of your partial key?

          It seems to me that if you have an install base as large as Microsoft has, round robin will easily be enough redundancy without over thinking the problem.

          How do you assume they are trustworthy?

          Because it would be trivial to write in some sanity check on and against the client that could upload encrypted results to a server should the client disconnect in whatever way you are seeming to think is unreasonable. And to clarify server, should it be assumed that it could be a single point of failure, it shouldn't be. Between DNS and (even geographic)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IBBoard (1128019)

        And, of course, that kind of key system isn't going to suffer from the "insufficient seeders" problem at all :D

      • by Tom (822)

        Sometimes, I hate HTML.

        Of course it has to be Y <= X - aka Y less than or equal to X. That's the whole point. With Y=X that would a trivial.

    • by Okind (556066)

      "Now we'll just pay for most of the bandwidth instead of them."

      Exactly. And I'm not paying the distribution costs for someone else's commercial enterprise.
      On top of that, your ISP may even cut you off (do your ISP's general conditions say the connection is not to be used for commercial purposes?)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:31AM (#29512739)

    Up until this point I have two ways of downloading content: Quick and easy from a dedicated server, but DRMed, or slowly and unreliably from peer-to-peer networks, but DRM-free.

    So now Microsoft kindly offers me a service that has all the slowness and unreliability that peer-to-peer networks, while keeping all the restrictions of DRM? Brilliant!

    • by vxvxvxvx (745287)
      Seems to be right. Kind of like how WOW uses p2p for the distribution of their game updates. By pushing the hosting of software from their own servers onto the customers computer MS would be able to reduce it's bandwidth requirements and hence costs. In an ideal world this would result in cheaper software.
      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        In an ideal world this would result in cheaper software.

        Never forget that in an ideal world the entire DRM scheme wouldn't exist so its chance of lowering software prices would be, and is, zero.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pearl298 (1585049)

      I find that downloading Ubuntu releases via BitTorrent to be about 5X faster than FTP or HTTP downloads!

      Much slower for something rare like the 1964 Dr. Who TV series, but hey ...

  • filed years ago (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:32AM (#29512745) Homepage Journal

    Are blog drooling morons not aware that patents take YEARS to go from filing to accept to grant? You can't tell anything about a company's strategic direction from their patent portfolio. Engineers get bribes for filing, and lawyers get paychecks, and that's about all the motivation needed to file a patent - any old shit will do.

    • Actually, if you had RTFA, you would have seen the second paragraph:

      The patent, number 7,594,275, is entitled simply, "Digital rights management system." Granted today (Sept. 22), it was filed in October, 2003, which undercuts the implication in my introduction, about why anyone would bother at this late date.

    • Are blog drooling morons not aware that patents take YEARS to go from filing to accept to grant?

      That's kind of beside the point. Doesn't matter how long it took them to get it, and the more time and expense that was required make it all that much more ridiculous.

      Microsoft has the patent to DRM for p2p. DRM does not work unless you use a proprietary format. P2P is not a proprietary format. The exchange of files is the function of the Internet or even an internal network at its most basic levels. A patent doe

  • Write a client that ignores the DRM.

    I wonder how much money they spent on developing that POS.

    • by mftb (1522365)

      Gread idea! And what do you propose is done once the encrypted files are downloaded? Bruteforce a key?

  • Simple question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dascandy (869781) <dascandy@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:37AM (#29512767)

    Do you want me to have the content or not?

    If you want me to have the content, you can't make me unhave the content.
    If you don't want me to have the content, *just sod off already*.

    There's no place for DRM in the world. It's fundamentally flawed at its principles.

    • Re:Simple question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by IBBoard (1128019) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:59AM (#29512851) Homepage

      There's no place for DRM in the world. It's fundamentally flawed at its principles.

      Just to play devil's advocate, there is a place for DRM in the world, just not in the consumer space. While I hate DRM on my music/games (especially since I use Linux and other alternate devices) it could be suitably applied on corporate documents to enforce access controls. In that situation it could still be cracked, but you've then got a very obvious and often quite large legal entity to point the finger at and sue for breach of confidence or contract or whatever, which means that they're far less likely to crack it (plus you're likely to trust them to some degree anyway, since you have a business relationship with them). For "B2B" situations it would provide extra protection on top of a contract that would stop accidental leaks (or at least make the leaked document less usable)

      • Which means that is can work as whistleblower stomp:

        Classical example against DRM is whistleblower leaking documents concerning illegal/unethical stuff happening inside company. DRMed document would be unreadable for outsiders, requiring DRM-breaking and if DRM system supports it, document could be remotely nuked.

        This scenario is definitely not favorable for society. I for one would consider music/games DRM much better - their content, their terms, you do not really need to have access to it.

        But once it sta

        • by IBBoard (1128019)

          Classical example against DRM is whistleblower leaking documents concerning illegal/unethical stuff happening inside company. DRMed document would be unreadable for outsiders, requiring DRM-breaking and if DRM system supports it, document could be remotely nuked.

          Except that a) the DRM system couldn't nuke it if it wasn't connected to the right systems (or you could have a backup if it was a "three strikes and I nuke"), b) no matter what your DRM is on documents, at the end of the day the whistle-blower can

          • by IBBoard (1128019)

            Ooops, missed d) at the end of it all!

            d) if you've got the right policies on your network (disabling USB media, filtering of all out-going mail, filtering of web content and no uploads - basically all of the controls they have in place where I work) then the whistle blower couldn't leak the document anyway because there wouldn't be a way out of the network (especially when combined with unprintable PDFs or similar).

            • by russotto (537200)

              d) if you've got the right policies on your network (disabling USB media, filtering of all out-going mail, filtering of web content and no uploads - basically all of the controls they have in place where I work) then the whistle blower couldn't leak the document anyway because there wouldn't be a way out of the network (especially when combined with unprintable PDFs or similar).

              Besides the fact that your place is either a limited-purpose production environment or a hellhole where security constantly gets in

              • by IBBoard (1128019)

                No I didn't, that was point b) in the first three flaws with the "DRM stops whistleblowing". If you're sharing a document with a partner company for the purposes of a contract then DRMing it could let you limit its use to the length of the contract and with most documents then photographing it wouldn't be useful for continued corporate work in breach of the contract. Whistleblowing, on the other hand, could use a photograph of the document to leak enough that the important details got out.

        • by Hatta (162192) *

          I for one would consider music/games DRM much better - their content, their terms, you do not really need to have access to it.

          Once I buy it, it's my content. I will play it on my terms.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        DRM=encryption but encryption != DRM. "DRM on private documents" is not DRM.

    • by tibman (623933)

      I actually like Valve's Steam system. The main reason i like it is there isn't much cheating. Cheaters/Hackers that get caught, cannot play on a VAC server anymore. The customer still owns the game but isn't allowed to play on the "general population" servers, only on non-VAC servers. Some things like maphacks don't qualify as hacking but an admin can perma-ban your STEAMID (not just an ip addr, but the actual paid for game copy). I also love the unified update/news/changelog system.

      Hah, just a moment

  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:47AM (#29512803) Homepage

    Not anymore than the Internet is P2P anyway. It'll be a slight more advanced form of distribution from someone in control of the DRM to those without control of the DRM. The whole point of peer-to-peer is that it's millions of peers sharing all sorts of shit. Everything from the mainstream to the obscure. of course not all the obscure things are on TPB but there are much more specialized niche sites. There's usually something for everyone. That's what makes it popular, who cares what this is?

    Is there anybody that think that iTunes don't have the server capacity? Bullshit. If you're paying you might as well pay another 5 cent so they host the bandwidth. That's cheap central bandwidth, unlike your expensive last mile bandwidth. What peer-to-peer did was to distribute that already low cost from one server to all the peers, so that people actually operate torrent sites without killing themselves on bandwidth as opposed to the old ftp servers. That way you didn't have to start with micropayments, and just share.

    So yeah whatever make a DRM'd P2P network. It won't have any of the appeal of free P2P or any real advantage over centralized DRM. Good luck on that.

    • Putting DRM on something means you have lost control of it ... DRM works by giving you the locked box and the key .... then trying to hide the fact that that you have now have the key

      This seems to be more like plain encryption, anyone can have the content but it is useless without the key, I will give you the key for a fee, just like a licence key, and this is unique so can be traced to you if you give it to others ... not really DRM at all ...?

    • by Zoxed (676559)

      > Not anymore than the Internet is P2P anyway.
      AFAIK most of the traffic on the internet is client/server: web browsing, email, ftp, s/w updates etc

      > The whole point of peer-to-peer is that it's millions of peers sharing all sorts of shit.
      IMHO the key characteristic of P2P is either no server, or a very low bandwidth server.

      > What peer-to-peer did was to distribute that already low cost from one server to all the peers, so that people actually operate torrent sites without killing themselves on band

  • I believed the customers had spoken out clearly enough about DRM. All sites i have seen lately that sells music are totally into mp3.

    I dont think people will take it up the shute any more willingly just because its movies thats DRM tainted. Especially not now when movies is getting into all sorts of gadgets like mobile phones, media players, netbooks and game devices etc.

    DRM only do one thing from the paying customer perspective, severely limits the portability of paid content. It does not bring any benefits whatsoever. It also makes pirated/cracked content better than bought content and thats really not a good selling point. My kid really hates Microsoft because of how bad the DRM in GTA4 was and how many hoops he had to jump through to get it installed and working. He actually d/l a pirated version even if he has a legit copy, just to avoid the DRM stuff. I have a really hard time explaining to him why he should pay for his games after stuff like this.

    The reason Microsoft is so into this is pretty obvious. They want to be the gatekeeper between people and their content so that any content will demand Microsoft licenses to be usable.

    • "I believed the customers had spoken out clearly enough about DRM.

      Sure, but this patent was filled in 2003, and only granted now.

  • iPlayer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:52AM (#29512827) Homepage
    Re-emerge? BBC iPlayer, in its desktop not Flash-streaming form, is already a DRM'd p2p distribution system. Has been very successful though not as much as the straight Flash-based service from what I can tell.

    Cheers,
    Ian
    • Re:iPlayer (Score:5, Informative)

      by jonbryce (703250) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:02AM (#29512865) Homepage

      They've ditched the p2p version. You can now either download .wmv files directly from their servers, or use their Adobe AIR interface to download flash video directly.

      Channel 4 have also pretty much ditched their p2p offering in favour of flash video. ITV never had a p2p offering, but they've ditched their silverlight video in favour of flash video.

      That leaves Sky. They did at one point have a Kontiki p2p offering. They might still do.

      • by hab136 (30884)

        They've ditched the p2p version

        Much internet access in the UK is metered, so p2p is not viable due to the pricing structure.

        Consumer internet in the US (and many other countries) is often unmetered, and so is fine.

  • Well. As everyone will tell you, a encryptation system that give the attacker the unencryptation algoritym, enormeous ammounts of data unencrypted and such data encrypted is stupid.

    Also, P2P is less efficient (for the downloaders) than C2S. Why would the nodes download at slower speed from a legal P2P DRM network, wen can download from a warez C2S service, like a FTP, or a HTTP server like Megaupload. Humm?

    And I think DRM sould be illegal, has remove stuff like second sale, and the freedom to use a tool fo

    • by jim_v2000 (818799)
      There is no such thing as "second sale" with digital media. With physical media, only one person can own the item at a time, and when you sell it, ownership is transferred. Digital media, on the other hand, can be copied so easily that ownership doesn't mean anything, and a person could "second sale" it over and over and over again. What's to stop them? DRM is needed if you want to treat digital media like real property.
  • I suppose to avoid patent infringement we shouldn't use DRM on our P2P networks. How will we all manage :o)
  • To have as much money and resources as MS does, and to still be actually patenting such technology, shows that they don't understand, like, computers and stuff.

    I mean...nobody wants to buy that DRM'd stuff.  Ordinary folks are finally starting to figure out themselves that DRM sucks.  It's taken a decade or so, but they're coming around.
    • Yes, folks are starting figure it out _now_, not in 2003 when this patent was filled, as TFA says.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      To have as much money and resources as MS does, and to still be actually patenting such technology, shows that they don't understand, like, computers and stuff.

      yes, but not because "nobody wants to buy that DRM'd stuff" but because DRM can't possibly work. However, I believe they do understand "like, computers and stuff" but are like any other fraudster writing DRM. They know it can't possibly work, yet they sell it anyway.

      There's a sucker born every minute.

  • A bit off-topic, I know, but what has been the result for Apple of removing DRM from the iTunes store? How much more did they sell? And what if the result had been negative, would they have gone back to the old DRM'd scheme?

  • They can have it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VanillaCoke420 (662576) <.vanillacoke420. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:46AM (#29513033)
    That's one patent they can keep.
  • Any P2P offering requires the generosity of people who have already downloaded it to keep sharing it to others. This "good will" is the glue that keeps an offering going. With DRMed content, I predict there will be a LOT less good will amongst people who use P2P, and thus those offerings will be the least reliable and least available. Unless this P2P service is bundled into a larger software package or platform, like the zune phone or xbox720.

    Sheldon

  • From the article:

    The Microsoft patent uses partial licenses, consisting of both a public and a private key, to provide customers with the right to decrypt the content they access over the peer-to-peer network.

    So it's a combination of two things:

    And for this they have been granted a patent? *le sigh*

  • This is a very shrewd way of Microsoft positioning themselves to benefit from an emerging market.

    P2P is growing both in terms of public awareness (thepiratebay, napster) and legal usage (e.g., Aion open beta being available through torrent the last few weeks - I saw over 164000 peers at one point...). However, governments are starting to clamp down on P2P specifically. The UK Government has a paper open to comment until the 29th September and due to be implemented next year, trying to track P2P users and

  • centralized music stores like iTunes don't use DRM anymore, [...] peer-to-peer networks could reemerge in the future as a viable, albeit protected, source of content

    Is it just me, or are they trying to imply that iTunes is not a viable source of content because they got rid of the DRM?

  • This is good news, as no-one except Microsoft can do DRM over P2P now, so its yet another nail in DRM's coffin.

  • Um, i didn't know they went away. Sorry but DRM in any form is bad.

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