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Hardware-Based Digital-rights Management System Protecting Privacy and Free Content Choice

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000012484D
Original Publication Date: 2003-May-12
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-May-12
Document File: 4 page(s) / 128K

Publishing Venue



Presented is a computer system that allows software and digital-content providers to enforce digital rights management (DRM) on general-purpose computers while also allowing everyone to freely produce their own content and distribute it to others who want it, and while protecting privacy. Content can be music, videos, pictures, games, texts and anything else that may be protected by intellectual-property rights or other usage rights and can be represented and used via a computer.

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  Hardware-Based Digital-rights Management System Protecting Privacy and Free Content Choice

   A first underlying problem is that the software and digital-content industries are desiring hardware-based digital-rights management (DRM) systems because software-only systems are too easily breakable, and that it may be desirable to do this with hardware inside general-purpose computers (including personal computers, personal digital assistants, notebooks, sub-notebooks and web-enabled mobile phones, etc.)

A second underlying problem is that such hardware raises significant fears for free content choice and privacy: First, such hardware may easily give certain groups a control point for deciding which software and content can run in computers and which cannot. This is of concern at least for the open-source community, small software companies and other content providers (independent music labels, video producers, etc.), and private content such as family videos and self-written software. It may also be of concern in power struggles between large companies or states. Secondly, there are concerns for privacy. This is clear in the case where all content and software must first be centrally registered before it can run. But even if this is not needed, people tend to trust tamper-resistant DRM hardware less to protect their privacy, both because of possibly decreased choice of hard- and software and from the decreased possibility to have that hardware analyzed for illegitimate forwarding of data.

The presented idea solves these problems together. It offers a piece of tamper-resistant hardware, now called DRM hardware, inside general-purpose computers and enables content- and software-providers to prepare their content or software such that it will only run on such hardware, and in particular only on one such piece of hardware per license. At the same time it provides means out of control of the DRM hardware for running other software and content, and offers ways for the computer owners to prevent privacy breaches by the DRM hardware.

Below are described the details and components of the overall system, which components are under the control of the DRM hardware and thus out of control of the user, and which are out of control of the DRM hardware, and thus fully available to and under the control of the user.

A system for hardware-based digital-rights management protecting privacy and free content choice, comprises the following entities (see Figure 1):

a piece of tamper-resistant hardware, here called DRM hardware (20), typically a single-chip-computer containing a CPU and some memory of its own,

another piece of hardware, here called main CPU (10) with all the usual computing capabilities of the CPU of a computer;


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network connections (30) connected only to the main CPU (10), but not (directly) to the DRM hardware (20);

user output devices (40), such as displays, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and audio output, separated into 3 type...