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The right rights P6

November 6, 2017

Content is precious. A weak or non-existent digital rights management (DRM) system could lead to an entertainment blackout for an airline. Alexander Preston discusses the DRM landscape and how to keep a watchful eye.

While in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems have been around for some time, it is only recently that they have become an integral value addition for airlines, primarily on long routes.

But before airlines rush out to curate their programming libraries to achieve that sought-after competitive advantage, the thorny issue of digital rights management must first be addressed.

Roger Matthews, managing director of GoMedia, a European on-board infotainment systems provider for transport operators, explains that airlines can’t just jump in and start providing audio and video content. “As with all other forms of distributable media, without effective DRM in place, these entertainment services are at risk of breaching copyright laws.”


So what is DRM? And why is it so important? DRM, says Matthews, is a system of

technologies that media owners put in place when distributing their intellectual property to a wider audience, with terms set by the media owners on how the content is accessed and used. The types of media typically

covered by DRM are music, film, books, software, programming and even emails. One of the chief petitioners for DRM is

Hollywood, as Juraj Siska, CTO of IdeaNova, a provider of in-flight entertainment solutions, contends. “As digital content is reaching more targets, both geographically and number and type of screens, Hollywood studios are understandably concerned that their content cannot be easily compromised.”

DRM is therefore primarily used to restrict the end users’ ability to copy the content illegally.

“Without DRM technology,” asserts an Axinom spokesperson, “pirating valuable digital goods is as easy as copying a file.”

As an illustration, HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones is the most pirated TV programme of all time, with more than 350,000 download links posted online in 2016 alone.


To ensure such premium content is protected, the industry relies on a form of public-key encryption schemes, such as that provided by castLabs.

Bryce Pedersen, VP Marketing, elaborates. “Before being distributed, content is first

encrypted rendering it unwatchable. Until a user receives a special piece of secret data (often referred to as a ‘content key’), media remains locked. DRM entails the workflow process of ensuring that authorised users securely receive key licenses for content they wish to view.”

Axinom expands further. “At the core of any DRM technology there is encryption. Encryption protects well against someone eavesdropping on the (Wi-Fi) network and getting their hands on encrypted content. But without the decryption key it’s close to impossible to access the content. The hardest part for any DRM technology is protecting decryption keys on an end user’s device. This is the number-one priority.

“To achieve this, decryption keys are provided only in encrypted form and only to trusted DRM components on the device. Obviously the DRM player on the device is such a component. At some point it uses the decryption key, decrypts and displays the content.”  Read More



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