Another Challenge for the Hackers?

One of the constraints of the DVD format that is much hated by consumers around the world is the notorious "region code," whereby a DVD disc will only play in a machine that was bought in the country or region that the disc is licensed for. Hollywood claims that this is the only way to protect a work's licenses, which may vary from country to country. But region codes have made it tough on citizens in countries with few DVD releases and world travelers who try to bring home and play discs that they find abroad, leading to the widespread use of "hacks" to circumvent the restrictions.

The Internet, theoretically more of a global marketplace than the physical world, is supposed to be different. But Liquid Audio last week announced that the US Patent Office has awarded the company a patent for the "advanced Territory Restriction feature" in its Internet music delivery software. The company says that the technology was originally developed in 1998 to protect the regional copyrights of content owners using the company's Liquid Music Distribution System. Liquid remarks that it is currently considering the licensing of this patent for use by other media distributors.

According to Liquid, at the core of this newly-patented invention is a method to determine a user's location based on the geopolitical territory of the user's Internet Protocol (IP) address, by using a combination of IP allocation and domain name databases and heuristic and historical algorithms. Liquid claims that their invention includes a technique that optimizes response time when identifying a user's territory. The Liquid Music Distribution System then uses this location information to limit music distribution to only those music consumers who are located in countries where the music may be sold legally.

Liquid adds that, as part of its global music distribution system, it has developed and deployed a Territory Restriction Server (TRS) to manage the distribution of digital downloads to customers located in specified countries. The company says that the TRS determines the country by locating the user's IP address in a database compiled from multiple sources. The design of the TRS allows for continual update of the IP cache, which Liquid hopes will result in a progressive increase in the speed and accuracy of geopolitical territory identification over time. The company adds that the TRS has been in operation for three years, resulting in an IP cache that has the benefit of "extensive tuning."

Liquid's Phil Wiser notes that "with the rise of secure Internet music delivery, content owners need a way to manage their music copyrights on a country-by-country basis. This patent on the Territory Restriction feature in our global music distribution system strengthens Liquid Audio's technical advantage with record labels large and small who have been particularly interested in this capability."

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