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Introduction to MS Windows Media Rights Manager

Published: July 30, 1999
By Andrea Pruneda, Microsoft Streaming Media Division

Downloading songs and other digital media from the Internet is one of the hottest trends today, but with this trend come the issues of piracy, audio quality, and media distribution. To help content owners control their material, Microsoft has created Microsoft® Windows Media™ Rights Manager to help content owners distribute licensed digital media over the Internet with superior audio quality. With this technology, it is easier for consumers to legitimately acquire your content than it is for them to pirate it.

This article contains the following:

  • Overview of Windows Media Rights Manager

  • Using Windows Media Rights Manager

  • Preparing and Packaging Your Media Files

  • Customizing Windows Media Packager

  • Customizing the Windows Media Rights Manager Web Site

  • Applications of Windows Media Rights Manager

  • Additional Information

An Overview of Windows Media Rights Manager

Windows Media Rights Manager helps you control your digital media (such as songs and videos) by packaging your media files. A packaged media file contains a version of your media file that has been compressed, encrypted, and bundled with additional information that is specific to your Web site. The result is a smaller media file with high sound quality that can only be played by a person who has obtained a license. In addition, the packaged media file is separate from the license needed to play it, allowing you to think of distribution and licensing in new ways. This feature is unique to Windows Media Rights Manager.

The basic Windows Media Rights Manager process follows.

Packaging

Windows Media Rights Manager packages a media file by encoding it, compressing it, encrypting it with a key, and signing it with a key from a digital certificate (if you have a digital certificate that you'd like to include). Other information is added to the file, such as its title, the artist's name, a copyright statement, a banner image, a URL where its license can be acquired, and other URLs. The resulting packaged media file is saved in Windows Media Audio (.wma extension) or Advanced Streaming Format (.asf extension) and can be played in any media player that supports these formats, such as Microsoft® Windows Media™ Player.

Distribution

Because a packaged media file is separate from the license that is required to play it, you and your consumers can distribute the packaged media file in different ways. For example, you can place packaged files on a Web site for download, distribute them on a CD, e-mail them to consumers, and so on. Consumers can share and copy packaged media files as well.

Figure 1: An example of a Web site where consumers can download packaged media files

License Acquisition

To play a packaged media file, the consumer must acquire a license that contains the key to unlock the content. The process of acquiring a license begins automatically when the consumer plays a packaged media file for the first time. When a license is not detected on the consumer's computer, the Web browser opens a registration page where the consumer is prompted to enter information such as an e-mail address. Then, the license is issued and the consumer can play the media file.

Figure 2: After the consumer registers, a license is issued and the consumer can play the media file

From this point on, the consumer can play the media file according to the rights that are included in the license. Default rights allow the consumer to play the media file on the computer that was used to acquire the license and to copy the file to a portable device. Licenses can also have an expiration date. However, licenses are not transferable. If a consumer copies a packaged media file for a friend, the friend must acquire his or her own license to play the media file.

Piracy and Security

Media files are encrypted so that they cannot be played without licenses; licenses, in turn, cannot be shared or successfully copied. Although it is still possible for determined hackers to access the content, Windows Media Rights Manager makes it more difficult for people to pirate the content than to acquire it legitimately.

The process described above is the basic scenario for Windows Media Rights Manager, but you can customize it in many ways to suit your situation and requirements. For example, you might want to collect different registration information from consumers, set an expiration date on licenses, or collect payment before issuing licenses.

Using Windows Media Rights Manager

Windows Media Rights Manager includes the following components:

  • Windows Media™ Packager. This tool packages your media files.

  • Windows Media™ License Service. This service registers consumers and issues licenses.

  • SQL database. This database stores information about media files, transactions, licenses, and registration.

  • Windows Media Rights Manager Web site. This site's ASP pages contain all the functionality of Windows Media Rights Manager. This Web site provides your packaged files for download, registers consumers, and issues licenses.

For information about the installation and requirements for Windows Media Rights Manager, see http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/knowledgecenter/default.aspx.

You can use some or all of these components for your own digital rights solution. The basic process of Windows Media Rights Manager is described in the following sections:

  • Preparing and Packaging Your Media Files

  • Customizing Windows Media Packager

  • Customizing the Windows Media Rights Manager Web Site

Preparing and Packaging Your Media Files

Regardless of how you want to distribute and license your media files, you need to package them. The first step is to gather and prepare the media files that you want to package and distribute, and prepare any graphics you want to use.

Media files

Windows Media Packager accepts media files in WAV and MP3 format and then encodes and compresses these files into ASF format. You can, however, provide pre-encoded ASF files.

Before you decide which format to use as the source of your media files, you need to decide whether you want to schedule Windows Media Packager to periodically repackage your media files. When a file is repackaged, it receives a new key, thereby lessening the risk of unauthorized licenses (each packaged copy of a media file in circulation requires a different license). However, encoding and compressing WAV and MP3 files takes significant system resources, essentially taking the system offline during this process and preventing the Web server from responding to HTTP requests. If you want to repackage your files frequently, you should pre-encode your WAV and MP3 files to ASF format. That way, Windows Media Packager does not encode and compress your files each time the file is repackaged.

Before packaging your media files, you also need to decide whether you want to display images (JPG format) with the media file. For example, while a song is being played, you can display an album cover or pictures of the artist in the player. When you add images to a media file, the file is saved and pre-encoded in ASF format.

You can use Windows Media™ Author (included with Microsoft® Windows Media™ Tools version 4.0) to pre-encode your files to ASF format and to add JPG images.

Graphics

You can use graphics for banner images and still images.

A banner image is a small image that is packaged with the media file. The banner image is displayed when you play the media file and is linked to a URL that you specify. When you click the banner image, the URL is opened in your Web browser. Banner images must be in BMP, JPG, or GIF format, and the display size can be up to 32 by 194 pixels. When the packaged media file is played, the player might stretch or crop larger images to fit the banner area, so it is best to use banner images that are within this size.

Figure 3: Banner image displayed in Windows Media Player

Figure 3: Banner image displayed in Windows Media Player

A still image is an image, such as an album cover, that is displayed next to the download link for a particular media file in the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site. Because the still image is part of the Windows Media Rights Manager site, these images must be located within the Web site's directory. Copy the still images you want to use to the root directory of the Web site, which is C:\Inetpub\Wwwroot\WM\Content\Images\ by default. A still image must be in BMP, JPG, or GIF format and will be resized to 100 by 100 pixels when displayed.

Figure 4: Example of how still images are used

Packaging your media files

Once you've collected and prepared the media and graphics files you want to use, you are ready to package your media files.

Note: This procedure assumes that you have already installed Windows Media Rights Manager and are using the computer on which you installed it.

  1. On the Start menu, point to Programs, point to Windows Media, point to Rights Manager, and then click Windows Media Packager.

  2. On the Content tab, click Add.

  3. Click Browse (next to the Input filename and path box), select the media file you want to package, and then click Open.

  4. In the Output filename box, type a name for the packaged file (consumers will see this file name), and a .wma or .asf file extension. If you don't specify a file extension, .wma is used as the default.

  5. In the Title box, type the title of the media file. This title is displayed in the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site as the download link and is displayed in the Clip field in Windows Media Player when the media file is played (see Figure 5).

    Figure 5: Packaging information displayed in the Windows Media Player

    Figure 5: Packaging information displayed in the Windows Media Player

    The items in this step are optional.

    • In the Artist box, type the artist's name. This information appears in the Author field in the Windows Media Player (see Figure 5).

    • In the Artist URL box, type the URL of a Web site that you want to link to the Title, Artist, and Copyright information (the Clip, Author, and Copyright fields in the Windows Media Player--see Figure 5). When the consumer clicks any of these fields while playing the media file, this URL is opened in the Web browser. For example, you could specify the URL to the artist's Web site.

    • In the Copyright notice box, type a copyright notice that you want to display when the media file is played. To type the copyright (©) symbol, press and hold ALT, then type 0169 using the numeric keypad.

    • In the Genre box, select a genre that best describes this media file. This information is only used if you choose to organize your Windows Media Rights Manager Web site by genre; consumers visiting the Web site can choose the genre they are interested in rather than finding media according to title.

    • In the Still image box, select the image you want to display with the download link for this media file. This list only displays the images that you have moved to the root directory of the Web site (C:\Inetpub\Wwwroot\WM\Content\Images\).

    • Click Browse next to the Banner image box, locate the banner image you want to use, and then click Open. Then, in the Banner URL box, type the URL that you want to link to the banner image. For example, if the banner image is a company logo, type the URL to the company Web site.

    To see advanced settings, click Advanced Options. All items in the Advanced Options section are optional.

    • Specify the key to use for this media file. By default, Generate a new key is selected and is the correct option for most situations. However, if you want to set up subscriptions, you need to use key groups. For more information about setting up key groups and subscriptions, see Set up subscriptions in this article.

    • If you want to create a packaged copy of the media file but do not want to have a download link for it on the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site, clear the Available for download box.

    • If you want to periodically create new packaged copies of this media file with new keys, select Regenerate content on Packager schedule. For example, if you only want to create one packaged copy to reduce the impact on system resources, clear this check box. For information about setting the Packager schedule, see Set the Packager schedule in this article.

    • If you want to sign your media files with a digital certificate, select Sign with a certificate. To use this feature, you must have already acquired a certificate from a Certificate Authority and set it up in Windows Media Packager. For more information about certificates, see Windows Media Rights Manager Help.

    • In the Batch file box, you can specify a different batch file to use. Batch files run the commands that encode, protect, and sign your media files. However, unless you have written a new batch file for this purpose, you should accept the default setting.

    • In the License acquisition URL box, you can specify the URL that starts the license acquisition process. You should accept the default setting unless you have separated the license acquisition process to a different host Web site. For more information, see Use a third party to issue licenses in this article.

  6. Click Save, and then click OK to confirm.

Customizing Windows Media Packager

You can customize the way Windows Media Packager works by setting a few different options: you can organize the site by genre; use cookies to identify returning visitors; and change the packaging schedule.

Organize the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site by genre

If you organize the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site by genre, consumers can search for media files on your Web site by selecting a genre they are interested in. Be sure to specify the genre for each media file that you add; otherwise, your Web site will display these files under the category Unspecified Genre.

  1. In Windows Media Packager, click the Site Configuration tab, and then click the Site tab.

  2. Select Organize content by genre.

  3. Click Save.

Use cookies to identify returning consumers

By default, Windows Media Packager uses cookies (a small piece of data that is stored on the consumer's computer) to identify consumers who return to your Web site to acquire licenses. The consumer registers the first time he or she acquires a license and only needs to re-register after the cookie has expired. Otherwise, if you do not use cookies, each time a consumer acquires a license, he or she will be prompted to enter an e-mail address and additional registration information. You can disable cookies if you don't want to use them.

  1. In Windows Media Packager, click the Site Configuration tab, and then click the License Service tab.

  2. To disable cookies, clear the Use cookies to identify consumers who have already registered check box.

  3. Click Save.

Set the Packager schedule

You can specify how frequently you want to generate new packaged copies of your media files. For example, set Windows Media Rights Manager to generate new copies every other day. However, unless your media source files are already in pre-encoded ASF format, regenerating copies will greatly impact system resources.

Note: Only the media files for which the Regenerate content on Packager schedule option has been selected will be regenerated.

  1. In Windows Media Packager, click the Site Configuration tab, and then click the Packager tab.

  2. To set how frequently you want to regenerate copies, click Every ____ hour(s), and then type the interval in hours.

  3. To set a daily schedule instead, click Each day at, and then type the time at which you want to regenerate copies, using a 24-hour clock format. For example, to regenerate copies daily at 9 P.M., type 21:00.

  4. Click Save.

To activate the schedule that you just set, you need to stop and restart the Windows Media Packager service.

  1. On the Start menu, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Double-click Services.

  3. In the Services list, click Windows Media Packager.

  4. Click Stop, and then click Yes to confirm that you want to stop the service.

  5. When the service has stopped (the status message disappears), click Start.

  6. Click Close.

Customizing the Windows Media Rights Manager Web Site

After you have created packaged copies of your media files, you'll need a way to distribute them and issue licenses. The Web site that is created by Windows Media Rights Manager contains the basic functionality to accomplish this. You can use the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site by simply editing the two pages to suit your needs, completely customizing the way the Web site looks and functions, or creating a new Web site based on the ASP script from the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site.

You can modify the pages for the Web site using a text or HTML editor, such as Microsoft FrontPage, but caution must be taken so that the ASP script is not accidentally removed or modified. The pages for the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site are located by default in the C:\Inetpub\Wwwroot\WM\ directory.

Before you use the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site, you need to edit the following pages:

  • Regusage.htm. This is a placeholder page for you to state your privacy policy (how you will use the registration information you collect from consumers).

  • Recovery.htm. This is a placeholder page for you to state your license recovery policy (the conditions for reissuing licenses to consumers). By default, the Web site allows unlimited license recovery. If you don't want consumers to have unlimited license recovery, you can either disable the feature or, if you are familiar with ASP scripting, you can modify the ASP script to create a new policy. For more information about license recovery, see Windows Media Rights Manager Help.

If you want to modify the appearance of the Web site, such as the layout, fonts, colors, background, text, and so on, you'll need to edit the following pages:

  • Wm_genre.asp or Wm_nogenre.asp. This is the main page that displays the media files you have available for download. Wm_genre.asp is displayed if you organize your Web site by genre; otherwise, Wm_nogenre.asp is displayed.

  • Default.asp. This is the page that is displayed when you do not have any media files available for download.

  • Download4.asp. This is the page that displays download instructions for users of Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4.0.

  • Mainpage.asp and Verify.asp. These are the main registration pages.

  • License.asp. This is the page that is displayed when a license is successfully issued.

  • Nolicense.asp. This is the page that is displayed when a license is not issued.

For more information about customizing the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site pages, see Windows Media Rights Manager Help.

Applications of Windows Media Rights Manager

The standard scenario that Windows Media Rights Manager Web site supports is letting consumers download packaged media files and then issuing licenses in exchange for registration information. Using this scenario, you can promote artists and albums on the Internet while cutting down the cost of marketing and promotion. You can use the registration information you collect to generate customer mailing lists and find out who visits your Web site, how frequently, and so forth.

In addition, you can distribute packaged media files in various ways. Because the packaged media file is separate from the license, the packaged media file can be freely distributed and copied. For example, you can send out CDs containing packaged media files, send packaged media files in e-mail messages, allow multiple Web sites to host packaged media files, post packaged media files on a shared server, and so on.

With additional customization, you can use Windows Media Rights Manager to accomplish other goals. Following are a few examples of things you can do, plus a few pointers on how to enable them.

Set up subscriptions

You can allow consumers to acquire or purchase one license that is valid for multiple media files. For example, you can promote a selection of songs by creating a special subscription for them. The consumer downloads one song and then is issued a license (free of charge or for payment) when he or she tries to play the song. Then, the consumer downloads other songs from the selection but does not need to acquire additional licenses to play them.

To create a subscription, you must set up a key group (a key that is shared by multiple media files) and assign it to each media file in the subscription.

  1. Package the first media file in the subscription (go to the procedure in Packaging Your Media Files above).

    • In Step 7 of Packaging Your Media Files, select Create a new key group, and then type a name for the key group in the box. For example, type Promotional Special.

    • Clear the Regenerate copies on Packager schedule check box.

    • Continue and finish the procedure.

  2. Package the next media file in the subscription (see the procedure in Packaging Your Media Files above).

    • In Step 7, select Use an existing key group, and then select the key group you just created from the list.

    • Clear the Regenerate copies on Packager schedule check box.

    • Continue and finish the procedure.

Repeat this step for each additional media file in the subscription.

Now each media file in the key group uses the same key; therefore, each file can be played using the same license.

Generally, you should not generate new packaged copies of media files in key groups because a new key is generated when a media file is repackaged. The result is a subscription for which there might be multiple keys (therefore, multiple licenses). For example, a consumer acquires a license for a subscription and downloads the first song. That night, the media files in the subscription are repackaged. The next day, the consumer downloads the rest of the songs. However, he must acquire a new license because the other songs in the subscription now use a different key--a situation you do not want to occur when using subscriptions.

This model requires the consumer to download and play a media file to get a license. However, if you are familiar with ASP scripting, you can use the license object (documented in Windows Media Rights Manager Help) to customize the license acquisition process to issue licenses before a media file is requested. For example, you could write ASP script that allows the consumer to purchase and receive a license before downloading a media file.

Use a third party to issue licenses

You can distribute your packaged media files on one Web site and use a third party to clear license transactions. For example, an artist might want to post songs on his or her Web site but have the record label issue the licenses to play the songs. Or, one company might set up a payment collection Web site and clear licenses for multiple media Web sites that don't have a payment collection setup.

This scenario requires that:

  • Both sites (the content site and the licensing site) must be running Windows Media Rights Manager.

  • The media files from the content site must point to the license acquisition URL on the licensing site (each packaged media file contains a license acquisition URL, directing the consumer to the location where licenses are issued).

  • Both sites must share the license key seed, which is the character string used for generating licenses; both sites must use the same license key seed so that the key used in a media file is the same key used in its license.

See Hosting Windows Media License Service Separately in Windows Media Rights Manager Help for more information.

Collect payment for licenses

You can implement a method of collecting payment before you issue licenses to consumers. To accomplish this, you could, for example, integrate Windows Media Rights Manager with Microsoft Commerce Server. You would also need to modify the ASP script in the Windows Media Rights Manager Web site that runs the license acquisition process.

Additional Information

For more information about the information in this article, see Windows Media Rights Manager Help (on the Start menu, point to Programs, point to Windows Media, point to Rights Manager, and click Windows Media Rights Manager Documentation).

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