The company that wrote the DRM software that has landed Sony BMG in the merde is based in Banbury, near Oxford. It’s called First 4 Internet Ltd and it has a three-page web site of staggering opacity. Apparently, its business involves developing “leading Content Management technology providing Digital Asset Management, Content Protection, DRM and Image Content Filtering solutions”.
Research at Companies House puts some interesting flesh on these bones. The company has “two core business areas” — Image Composition Analysis (ICA) and XCP (Extended Copy Protection). Its sales turnover in the year to end-2004 was £709,941, up from £191,382 for the previous year. Pre-tax loss was down to £489,309 (compared with £786,071 in 2003). So someone is providing serious funding for this little outfit.
The Director’s Report for the year ended 30 November 2004 makes interesting reading — especially the bit about XCP. Here’s what it says:
The final testing and customisation of XCP2 was completed for Sony BMG in January of this year and the first CD title “Susie Suh” was manufactured for commercial release in February. Since March there have been approximately 20 new album releases with XCP2 on over two million CDs in the US market place. The launch of XCP2 has been a major achievement for the company and I would like to thank all employees for the committment and contribution of extra hours to help achieve this.
XPC2 was the first content protection technology with secure burning to be released in the US market in any volume and significantly ahead of our competitors. Independent consumer feedback conducted for Sony BMG on these CDs has been impressive with a positive reception from consumers [Eh?] as well as from the extensive press coverage that has accompanied this launch. [Eh?] The remaining hurdle is for the major record labels to negotiate with Apple Computers their agreement for the integration of content protected discs with iPod devices following which the adoption of content protection by all record labels will increase rapidly.
Hmmm… Time to rethink, chaps? Knowing Sony, they might even sue their plucky little UK supplier. Next year might not be a bumper year, after all. How about a change of name — Last 4 Internet, perhaps?