More than three years have passed since Napster highlighted the challenges facing digital content management in the Internet age.

The widespread availability of digital audio and video files, coupled with the popularity of file-sharing software from companies like Kazaa, has resulted in an inter-industry schism in the search for viable Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions are a breed of server software products developed to enable secure distribution - and perhaps more importantly, to disable illegal distribution - of paid content over the digital media. DRM technologies have been developed as a means of protection against the online piracy of commercially marketed material, which has proliferated through the widespread use of Napster and other peer-to-peer file exchange programs.

Although online content is protected by copyright laws, policing the Web and catching law-breakers is very difficult. DRM technology focuses on making it impossible to steal Web content in the first place, a much surer approach to the problem than the hit-and-miss strategies aimed at apprehending online poachers after the fact. A number of companies are releasing various DRM products based on a variety of approaches and technologies.

The IT industry is also concerned about DRM, but it is, at the same time, very interested in the potential of new, online distribution technologies.

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