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Video: The Difference Between Encryption and DRM

Tim: I've been involved in the industry since 1998 and there was this mythical figure in the industry for years and years and years that I finally met two years ago named Christopher Levy. You've been with BuyDRM for as long as I can remember, so tell me about BuyDRM. Tell the folks at home about BuyDRM.

Christopher: Well, BuyDRM came out of my original career in the streaming business. As you know, I had gotten out of the military, left West Point, had moved to Austin, Texas. I had a bunch of money I had saved up and I was very interested in the live music scene and I started putting ISDN lines into all the important clubs in Austin.

After I was done doing that, I turned to my partner and said, "Well, we should figure out how to make a business model out of this now that we've got all this infrastructure in place, and we were fortunate enough to get a phone call one day from a music venue called the Backyard, and they said, "Hey, we've got this guy on the phone, Mark Cuban, and he and this guy, Todd Wagner, want a live Willie Nelson webcast," and, "Can you do it?"

This was kind of the beginning of about a six-year career in producing live events. We later sold the company to CMGI, the Navisite Streaming Media Group, and we went on to pioneer some of the early, seminal, first events on the internet. We attended the first Streaming Media show in the bottom of the Hyatt in San Francisco 1998.

After doing streaming for several years, we basically created the first streaming overlay system using multiple CDNs. We were working with Digital Island and GlobeX and eStream and Akamai and Speedera before they went out of the business, everyone under the sun. After doing that for about two years and working with Troy Snyder and Kit and Jerry and all the team over there, I started to think, "You know, our customers are spending a lot of money on giving stuff away for free, but what are they doing to get a return on that?"

I started to think about, "Well what's the gateway to create a monetized stream?" At the time, ads weren't really in play yet, and no one was really selling video on the internet yet, and so I spun out of the company and I got Microsoft to make a small technology investment in the company and I started in the company in 2001, at the end of the 2001, actually right after 9/11, in October.

From there, we've just been organically growing the company and we are now about 20 people. It's a privately owned profitable company. We started out as a Microsoft-only company, because that was really the only technology viable, as I'm sure you remember.

Tim: Right. I remember you advocated for that personally.

Christopher: It was really the only thing out there that was viable. Widevine was in business at the time, but at the time they were more of an internet security appliance company, and you had to ... it was point-to-point and you had to buy their appliances and they were very expensive.

Over time, we evolved with the marketplace and we kind of just, as you would say, over 15 years, kind of fell into the business in the sense that no one was very much just specifically focused on providing on DRM services, so that's the niche that we really focus on today.

Tim: I'm going to go back to Austin real quick, to just ask the question, frustrated musician?

Christopher: No. That's my brother, our marketing director. I'm actually the musician supporter and a big fan of music.

Tim: Okay, got it. You're the person who would run the sound meter.

Christopher: Yeah, I played the trombone in high school.

Tim: Okay, got it.

Christopher: But Austin is definitely still a big epicenter of music.

Tim: It absolutely is. One of the few places in the country where you can find parking spaces marked specifically for the venues.

Christopher: Yeah.

Tim: Let's talk about the difference between encryption and DRM, because Matt Smith from Brightcove was here just a minute ago. We were talking about that, so tell me, most people when they think DRM, they think encryption, but that's not realistic, so what's the story there?

Christopher: Yeah, and Matt's a tough person to follow, so I hope I do a good job. Well, the difference is that encryption's part of DRM and DRM is really a holistic concept of protecting the rights of your digital content, managing the rights. Encryption is the first step in a DRM deployment, but it's not the only step.

Moreover, the encryption component creates the need then to express and create rights around content, and then those rights are expressed in a little license key that comes down to a device, and that license key then taps into either software or hardware-based security that's on the playback platform and enforces those rights.

Things like play, don't play, how long do I play, do I output to HDMI, where can I play, what happens if the user has a broken device, what happens if their computer hasn't been individualized, what happens if they hit Chromecast or output to HDMI, so you have the encryption, the rights and then the actual license key. Those are really the main ... And of course the rights expression language that expresses the rights through the actual license fee.

Tim: Yeah, sure, to essentially translate the business rules into the keys.

Christopher: It's an actual thing, yeah.

Tim: Okay, got it. Christopher, this is the second time I've met you, so now we're almost at the 20-year mark. In fact I wrote the “Decade of Streaming Media” in 2008. Next year will be the second decade.

Christopher: Yes, yes, yes.

Tim: So hopefully we'll see each other a couple more times in between then. I appreciate your time for coming today.

Christopher: Yeah. Hey Tim, thank you so much.

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