Microsoft’s PIFF

Last month, Microsoft announced an important initiative for DRM interoperability. Within a larger announcement, they disclosed the Protected Interoperable File Format (PIFF). The media focused mainly on smooth streaming and SilverLight. But content protection community should be interested by PIFF.

In an nutshell, PIFF defines a file format with a list of supported codecs but above all (at least for security minded people) two mandatory AES based scrambling modes. The basic idea for interoperability is that the PIFF protected essence can use any system of DRM to protect the license. Provided they both have the scrambling key used to protect “Rambo 28”, merchant A and merchant B can sell it using different DRM. PIFF compliant device A with DRM A can play “Rambo 28” sold by merchant B with DRM B. Device A just needs to get license from merchant A. The essence, ie “Rambo 28”, remains the same.

Is it a new revolutionary approach? No. DVB embraced this approach for many years with simulcrypt. In 2004, Thomson proposed to standardize this layer of protection in the IST Medianet project.

Is it a good thing? YES. According to me, it is clearly the right approach. That a giant like Microsoft takes this path is huge. Furthermore, it is royalty free, which is wise from Microsoft to facilitate the adoption. Now, the condition of success is that there will be ONE unique such format. Would there be more than one, then it would decrease its impact.

Of course, we may expect that next generation of Windows DRM and Play Ready will support PIFF. Which DRM technology provider will be the next one?

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