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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Digital rights and wrongs
Sealed Media website
How to protect copyright on the web is a hot issue, highlighted by the ongoing battle over the future of song swapping service Napster.

More and more copyright companies are crowding into the space, demanding interest from venture capitalists and content publishers alike.

The space they operate in is known as digital rights management and what it involves is controlling who reads, listens to or views what content on the web and what they do with it.

One of the latest contenders in this arena is UK company Sealed Media. Having just secured its second round of funding, it is launching its products into a crowded marketplace.

Stock-market favourites

Sealed Media estimates that this electronic content market is now worth $300bn (210bn).

The companies that offer control of access to this content have quickly become stock-market favourites.

InterTrust - who recently signed a deal with America Online - has been a Nasdaq darling since it floated last year.

Others active in the sector include, Rightsmarket and Digimarc.

Last month, Sealed Media announced it had secured second round funding of $10.25m. Its founding investor was Pond Ventures.

How does it work?

Sealed Media says its service is simple to use.

A user browsing an online publishers's site decides which article, song or other content they would like to buy. The user sends a request to the publisher's site.

The publisher encrypts the request, at this stage deciding what the user can do with the content, depending on what the user has requested.

The options businesses can have control over include print, preview, subscription periods and timed access to content.

Crucial to the Sealed Media offering is that rights are separated from content, with the rights to access certain content stored on the internet.

Hence users can access content they have paid for on a different machine by "connecting to the internet and transparently downloading any rights not currently checked out to another machine you might have been using in the past".

In the same way that "people don't buy a book just to read it in the kitchen," Sealed Media's Peter Kumik says, they like to be able to access the content they have bought on any computer.

Target market

Publishers of scientific journalism, financial research and newspaper archives are those that Sealed Media see as its current target market.

Publishers of reference and education books are also likely buyers of this technology.

Future users are publishers of reference books and education books. Publishers can combine several different file types such as PDF, HTML, and audio and video in one package.

Sealed Media was founded in 1996 by Dr Martin Lambert, now its chief technology officer.

But it was only last year that the threats and opportunity posed by the internet started to filter through to many publishing companies, and it was in April of last year that it received its first round of venture capital funding.

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | Business
Protecting your copyright on the web
06 Sep 00 | Business told to pay $250m
27 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Making music and money
21 Feb 00 | Business
The web detectives
30 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Doing the rights thing
05 Apr 00 | Business
Pirate web threat to music industry
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