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Created: September 24, 2002.
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W3C Publishes Note on Extensible Media Commerce Language (XMCL).

RealNetworks, Inc. has submitted the Extensible Media Commerce Language (XMCL) specification to W3C with the suggestion "that the Consortium start a working group to develop a W3C recommendation for XML based digital rights specification language." The Extensible Media Commerce Language is "an interchange format that describes usage rules that apply to multi-media content. It is designed to communicate these rules in an implementation independent manner for interchange between business systems and DRM implementations responsible for enforcing the rules described in the language." The submission notes that "a standard XML-based business rule definition language would bring DRM systems together on the back end and reduce the cost for the publisher/e-tailer; most importantly, a standard business rule definition language would enable the e-tailer to become independent of the particular implementation choices of any single DRM vendor and any single back-end system." XMCL "describes the minimum, self-complete set of business rules under which digital media is licensed for consumer use. These business rules support multiple business models including rental, subscription, ownership, and video on demand/pay-per-view. When a business system authorizes a customer transaction for digital media, it generates a XMCL document that is then acted upon and enforced by a specific trusted system."

Bibliographic information: XMCL - the eXtensible Media Commerce Language. W3C Note 19-September-2002. Authored by Jeffrey Ayars (RealNetworks, Inc). Version URL: Latest version URL:

From the Introduction:

This document specifies the Syntax and Semantics of XMCL, an eXtensible Media Commerce Language. Digital media in a rights management system flows through a number of steps on its journey to a consumer's eyes and ears. The steps are: create, package, publish, distribute, license, and consume. At least a subset of these abstract steps is implemented by all rights management systems today. The service or business owner that manages one or more of these steps varies widely depending on the relationships negotiated for a specific piece of content. However, there is a natural break between the back-end systems for publishing and licensing on one side and the trusted system that packaged the content and enforces the business rules for the content on the other. This division is between the systems that describe the business rules for the content and the specific implementation that enforces those rules.

XMCL is a "rights specification language", as defined by the Association of American Publishers. The purpose of XMCL is for interchange of business rules to be applied to media between business systems (e.g., web store fronts, customer tracking and management) and trusted delivery and playback systems (e.g., a DRM implementation that will enforce the rights described in the XMCL document). Through the use of XMCL business systems are completely free of knowledge of specific trusted system implementations. This separation of the business systems and the trusted system allow businesses to support one or more trusted systems and provides the option of changing trusted systems as conditions change without changes to the business system.

From the W3C Team Comment:

"... DRM in general is not a panacea for the actual problems experienced in the clash of new technology with old copyright business paradigms. The authors of XMCL have seen those risks and propose to hand over the resolving of the issues raised by W3C's DRM Workshop to a future W3C Activity. As we can see, XMCL is only a first step. Isolated use of this language without resolving the aforementioned issues might lead to undesired consequences. We don't know the exact impact of those issues for our future."

"The challenge remains: It will remain difficult to maintain the old business-models of the creative industry in conjunction with the Web. On the other hand, the goal of copyright remains valid: Create an incentive for creators to create, for investors to invest, to encourage a richer and more diverse cultural activity by giving the creator a just reward for the creation. It will need new technology and new business models -harmonized which each other- to maintain that goal. The Web had an impact on the balanced peace in this area. A new balance of interests remains to be found and DRM will be a part of that balance."

"New technologies are needed to address a variety of issues around copyright and the Web. Electronic copies of a digital (intangible) item have no age: one can't distinguish between the original and the copy. The cost of copying has disappeared, which changes the whole landscape for the content industry. DRM and metadata can provide the necessary framework for a new balance and peace in the content arena... Consequently, this [XMCL]submission is a valuable attempt to provide input for a future DRM-Activity."

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