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IBM beefs up digital rights software

Big Blue will announce new digital rights management software that allows companies to protect everything from music files to videos.

IBM will announce new digital rights management (DRM) software on Monday that allows companies to protect everything from music files to videos.

IBM's Electronic Media Management software works to digitally protect text, image and video files, as well as PDF and Open-eBook files. The first version of the software, released last year, only handled music files.

The most obvious use for the software is to protect music and video files from illegal swapping over the Internet. But IBM says there are also broader corporate uses for the software, such as allowing doctors to send digital versions of X-rays to remote hospitals, or insurance companies to transmit claims records and customer information over a network.

"Protection of music is not the end of protection of content," said Paul Rettig, director of digital media development at IBM. "With (the first version) we had focused on one industry but this is a very general need and now we're addressing that general need with a general product."

IBM said there are four steps to using the new software: attaching the digital protection to the file, securely hosting the file, transmitting the file to the end user, and enabling the end user to securely access the data. IBM is releasing developer kits that will allow third parties to integrate the software with their own applications at the beginning and end of the process.

IBM said its new software will support a wide range of transmission devices, including CDs, game stations, set-top boxes and retail kiosks. The software supports XML (Extensible Markup Language) and Java, and is compatible with Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

The rise in popularity of digital media has prompted many technology firms to get into the DRM field. Microsoft is preparing an update to the version of its Windows Media DRM software that works with handheld and portable devices.

"This is all based on the premise, which we agree with, that over the course of next 12 to 18 months that managing and cataloging and deploying rich media will become an important concern (to enterprises)," said Lou Latham, research analyst at Gartner.

The software will be formally released April 30. Pricing has not been announced.