British telecommunications giant BT Group has launched a new software business to protect music, movies and photographs from digital piracy.

British telecommunications giant BT Group has launched a new software business to protect music, movies and photographs from digital piracy.

In making the belated plunge into the brutally competitive digital-rights management (DRM) software market, BT will be going head-to-head with some of the world's largest software and technology companies including Microsoft Corp, Sony Corp. and Apple Computer.

BT says it will work with a host of software partners, including RealNetworks, whose Helix DRM technology is used by a variety of broadcasters from the BBC to EMI, to resell their publishing and content management tools to amateur filmmakers, local soccer clubs and major media firms.

The DRM offering is part of a larger digital media publishing product called BT Rich Media. The company says it will target the consumer and small business sector with a £100 ($184.70) product and large media companies with an offering that costs several times that amount.

Media companies are keen to see mass deployment of DRM technology to cut down on digital piracy. The DRM software can be used by musicians or filmmakers to fine-tune their works so that the content cannot be copied or viewed without permission.

But the new technology has become a muddle for consumers as a multitude of incompatible DRM technologies hit the market. The result is consumers must familiarize themselves with a list of technological conditions before storing new music or film onto their digital play-back devices or PCs.

In a further sign of how competitive the market has become, Time Warner said yesterday (April 5) it took an undisclosed equity stake in American DRM provider ContentGuard, a company that counts Sony as a customer and Microsoft as another investor.

--Reuters