The day the celebrated court case to rein in Napster started in the U.S. last week, a Calgary software company officially launched a product to protect intellectual property online.
RightsMarket Inc. has also announced that OutsideGuide.com, a Calgary-based e-bookstore selling travel content, has selected its technology. At the same time, Fifth Era Knowledge Inc., a provider of online e-learning has formed an alliance with RightsMarket.
Fifth Era will develop an online learning module for RightsMarket. The project is being developed jointly and involves a revenue-sharing arrangement, according to Peter Stunden, president and chief executive of Fifth Era Knowledge.
Fifth Era will license RightsMarket’s technology in order to provide secure distribution of over 300 titles of e-learning materials including text, html-formatted documents, audio and video.
James Godsell, RightsMarket chief operating officer, says the company has been working with a number of other publishers and content providers and expects to announce further partnerships later in the year.
The protection of rights relating to music in the digital world is confused and there is little money to be made, said Godsell. “It will require government protection, levies imposed on Internet providers and other forms of regulations.”
A major court case in the U.S. is attempting to determine what can be done about pirating music from the Net through such services as Napster. The Recording Industry Association of America wants the U.S. federal appeals court to ban Napster Inc., to shut it down.
But the three-judge panel in San Francisco made no immediate decision last week. The court is expected to rule at a later date.
RightsMarket has initiatives relating to music, but is more interested in text. It has an end-to-end service to protect online content, collect royalties and fees for providers and do most of the bookkeeping along the way.
In addition, it is now providing that service for use on any platform, including palm devices and cell phones.
This appealed to Glenn Fawcett, president of OutsideGuide, which distributes content from 82 publishers worldwide. “The PDA (personal digital assistant) and other portable platforms are ideal for the travel market,” says Fawcett. “Individuals looking for information can get it without lugging around three or four travel books with them.”
Calgary-based OutsideGuide was developed on the theory that the best travel information is regional. “The best information on the West Coast Trail, an exceptionally popular hike on Vancouver Island, is written by two hippies who know the trail inside out. It was only available on Vancouver Island,” said Fawcett.
Making these niche publications available for mass distribution in the print world doesn’t make any sense. “But in the digital world, it is a completely different equation,” said Fawcett.
However, in the digital world where all has been free and easy to copy, the protection of property becomes the issue. “Authors and publishers put substantial work into their projects and they don’t want to see a Napster, they don’t want it plagiarized and sent all over the Net.
“Digital Rights Management is a key thing for us to convince these publishers to allow us to distribute their content,” said Fawcett. “We looked all over the world for a solution and ultimately RightsMarket in our backyard had the capabilities.”
RightsMarket has licensed OutsideGuide to use its software to securely enable the sale, tracking and control of their digital content across the Internet.
DigitalRights also markets its service by taking a share of revenue, rather than licensing customers. Credit Suisse First Boston estimates the digital content market will be worth $275 billion US by 2003 with 10 per cent, or $27.5 billion, in that market for technology providers in digital rights and digital publishing.
Lindsay Moir, president of RightsMarket and a founder of the company, said there are about 15,000 publishers in this target market. “We have 20 signed up and 40 to 50 ready to go.”
Moir said the protection of music over the Internet is more likely to be solved by subscription services and metering and not by encryption services.
RightsMarket is offering encryption services and complete end-to-end services for e-publishing, but in the next three to six months expects to announce products that will measure the use of information and charge accordingly, he said.
It made its announcements Oct. 2 at Canada Olympic Park by having national ski team member Chris Holland launch the technology by wearing it strapped onto his body as he jumped from the 70-metre ski jump.
The company is listed on the Canadian Venture Exchange. Its technology partners include Ansyr Technology Corp. and Adobe.