Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General

What is Microsoft PlayReady technology?

The development of Microsoft PlayReady content access protection technology is the culmination of 10 years of innovation and more than $1B invested as a result of years of collaboration with the Studios, Entertainment industry, Broadcasters, Service Providers, and Mobile and CE industries. PlayReady is the premiere comprehensive content delivery and management solution for entertainment products and services.

What are the key features of Microsoft PlayReady?

Microsoft PlayReady technology allows:

  • Seamless sharing of protected content among devices and between people.
  • Support for a variety of business models, including rental, subscription, advertising, promotion, preloaded content and more.
  • Support for audio, video, multimedia, eBooks, and other new content types on any device.

Key features include:

  • Domains
  • Embedded license
  • Extended format support
  • Silverlight support
  • WMDRM Content support
  • Industry standard cryptography AES and ECC (NIST P-256)
  • Unified device porting kit
  • Adopted by major standards at World Wide levels: DECE (UVVU), DASH
  • Enables premium content without plug-ins in the browser using HTML5 EME and MPEG-DASH
  • Key Rotation, Live TV, and Blackout support
  • Software Development Kits for iOS and Android

More in detail, Microsoft PlayReady:

  • Supports natively a wide range of audio and video codecs, including WMA, WMV, Dolby Digital +, AAC, AAC+, enhanced AAC+, and H.264.
  • Is able to protect essentially any type of digital content — music, video, games, ringtones, images, and more.
  • Has a tight integration with Microsoft platforms including Windows 8, Xbox, Windows Phone, Mediaroom, and Silverlight for Windows and Mac.
  • Implements user domains and embedded licenses to facilitate legal distribution of content among devices.
  • Is capable of Over-The-Air (OTA) delivery of content and licenses.
  • Allows side-loading of content from Windows PCs.
  • Is backwards compatible with WMDRM10. Mobile handsets, set-top boxes and other devices built with PlayReady technology can decrypt content protected with WMDRM10. In addition, PlayReady features such as domains and embedded licenses may be applied to content originally protected with WMDRM10.
  • Has a permanent breach management service with dedicated response team.
How does Microsoft PlayReady work?

The Microsoft PlayReady ecosystem consists of PC Clients, Devices and Servers. PlayReady Devices and PC Clients that playback content can acquire protected content, interpret a license, and enforce the rules contained in that license.

PlayReady Servers include:

  • Content Packaging Server: Takes unprotected content and packages it for distribution. When the content is packaged, the protected content is copied to a Distribution Server and the license information is transferred to a License Server.
  • License Server: Stores the content protection information and rights for using the content. Before a client can play back protected content they must acquire a license, typically from a license server (or the license may already be embedded in the content file).
  • Domain Controller: Implements the rules that define a domain such as the identity of a single user or family. The Domain Controller also enforces the policy defining how many devices or PCs may join the domain.
  • Metering Servers: With metering, the device maintains a count of how many times a file is played. When the portable device connects to a computer or the Internet, the count is uploaded to the content provider. Metering does not alter or affect any behavior on the user's system and does not identify the user. Metering allows the content provider to accurately assess royalties. Because metering can be more cost-effective, service providers can provide much larger music catalogs for customers to download.

In order to distribute content to the network or the end users, licensees are requested to have distribution servers, which are NOT part of the PlayReady technology. Distribution servers are used to store and distribute content. They are usually Web servers but Microsoft PlayReady technology does not require a specialized Web server for content storage and distribution.

The following is a high level illustration of how content and licenses flow between servers and clients in a PlayReady ecosystem to enable access to protected content.

illustration of how content and licenses flow between servers and clients in a PlayReady ecosystem
What is individualization?

Individualization makes it possible for consumers to be given different executable files and different certified license keys. This significantly reduces the danger of global breaks. If a specific PlayReady client becomes compromised, it can be barred from acquiring licenses for new digital media files; to acquire licenses to new digital media files, a new client would need to be installed.

Does Microsoft PlayReady support renewability?

Yes. Renewability allows PlayReady to update technology used in content access to increase security. PlayReady can be upgraded in a number of ways as Microsoft releases improved versions. These releases offer regular improvements in the overall security of the technology and in some cases may be reactions to security threats. As an added security measure, content owners can refuse to deliver content to those clients that have not recently upgraded or renewed components on their device. PlayReady also includes support for domain renewability, which allows domain certificates to be upgraded without invalidating previously acquired content.

How can users access PlayReady-protected content on Windows-based PCs?

Silverlight offers support for PlayReady-protected content and Windows 8 offers native support for all PlayReady protected content. Microsoft has also released the PlayReady PC Software Development Kit, which enables application developers to include support for decrypting PlayReady-protected content in their Windows-based applications.

Which operating systems support PlayReady Server?

The PlayReady Server Software Development Kit runs on Windows Server 2008 x64 and Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 native operating systems (only the 64-bit versions are supported). In addition, the PlayReady Server Software Development Kit runs on top of Hyper V and in Azure.

Is PlayReady interoperable with other DRM technologies?

Certain end-to-end scenarios may require protected content to be exported from one content-protection system to another in order to play or copy the same content on multiple platforms and devices.

For example, a consumer may use a PC to acquire subscription content that is protected with PlayReady and may then want to stream that content to a playback device on a network that only supports DTCP-IP. To play the content protected with PlayReady on that device, the protected content must be exported to DTCP-IP.

To enable this scenario, the PlayReady Server SDK permits exports to a license. The PlayReady Compliance Rules contain a list of content-protection formats that are permitted for export and their associated rights mappings with PlayReady, along with methods that developers can call to export the content from PlayReady.

The client sending content may only export the content to those content-protection systems specified in the license. As is the case with Windows Media DRM, the final decision about the systems that systems-specific content may flow to will be made on a case-by-case basis by the content service provider.

PlayReady devices and applications can decrypt legacy WMDRM protected content without requiring any modification to the original encrypted content files, however the licenses will be delivered using the PlayReady Server SDK.

Both the PlayReady PC SDK and the Device Porting Kit allow the application, if desired, to change the license header of existing content files into the PlayReady format, thus allowing an invisible conversion to the new ecosystem with all of its advantages, i.e., domains and embedded licenses, even on "legacy" content.

From version 2, Silverlight can play and decrypt the same Windows Media DRM-encrypted content that is played in Windows Media Player, but a PlayReady license server (running the PlayReady Server SDK) must be deployed to provide licenses to Silverlight clients. Therefore the migration requires deployment of a PlayReady License Server.

Where can I find more information about the PlayReady Header Object?

The document describing the PlayReady Header Object can be found here.

Is Microsoft PlayReady an application, a software development kit (SDK), or something else?

Microsoft PlayReady is a technology, an intellectual property portfolio and an ecosystem of developers.

About our technology:

  • Microsoft provides executable components on the server, PC, MAC as well as source code for devices.
  • These components work together so there is no need for ad hoc customization.
  • Integration costs for new services and new devices are reduced to virtually $0.

About our Intellectual Property

  • The full IP portfolio is provided to all licensees.
  • We offer a unique indemnification policy for our licensees on IP.

About the PlayReady ecosystem

  • Allows licensees to work together to leverage their specific skills and expertise to create unique, compelling and successful services.
  • Upon request, Microsoft can create a link between licensees and facilitate new business relationships.
  • All Microsoft assets and endpoints support PlayReady. As an extension of the ecosystem, Microsoft Sales, Developer & Platforms Evangelists, and Microsoft Consulting Services work daily with customers worldwide.
When will Microsoft PlayReady be available?

PlayReady has been available since 2008 and features an extensive global ecosystem. See our list of licensees: http://www.microsoft.com/playready/licensing/list/.

The technology is available in all Microsoft endpoints including Windows 8, Xbox, Windows Phone, Mediaroom, and Silverlight for Windows, Mac as well as in non-Windows client distribution.

PlayReady has been adopted by major standards at World Wide levels: DECE (UVVU), DASH.

When will PlayReady devices and services be available?

Hundreds of devices with PlayReady are already in the market from all major OEMs, ODMs and CE brands.

Availability of devices and services depends on the individual development cycles of each device manufacturer and content service provider.

For the iOS and Android platforms, PlayReady fully supports the Secure Downloadable Application model.

What does Microsoft PlayReady mean for consumers?

Microsoft PlayReady enables content services and device manufacturers to make more content available to consumers. Thus content is more portable and even easier to enjoy because PlayReady enables the highest possible protection of that content with minimal hassle for consumers. PlayReady's support for domains and embedded licenses makes it simple for consumers to transfer and play their content on any device that is part of the domain.

Licensing

What does PlayReady mean for my company as a potential licensee?

The core objective of content protection has shifted from the pure protection of a physical asset (i.e., movies, songs) to protection of the revenue stream for the entire entertainment industry. At the same time, the end user experience must allow seamless, flexible content access across multiple device types.

Microsoft PlayReady is the best and most widely deployed content protection technology within the IP world, supporting virtually all content types and a wide range of business models you may choose to implement.

Microsoft PlayReady is more than just a technology specification. It provides a readily-deployable implementation, including a well-documented device porting kit with source code for hardware partners, and a license server component designed to integrate easily into a service provider's existing infrastructure.

It can be seamlessly deployed on virtually any mobile, set top box or CE hardware or software platform. PlayReady is developed and supported by a team with unrivaled experience in content access and protection technology, and it utilizes well proven infrastructure and processes to provide an ideal foundation for entertainment products, services, and devices.

What are the licensing terms?

All PlayReady licensing terms are public and available on our website. Please see the Microsoft PlayReady License page for licensing details.

What device distribution rights does PlayReady offer?

Source code: Licensees may only distribute SOURCE code implementations of PlayReady to other Intermediate Product licensees. Object code: Licensees may only distribute OBJECT code implementations of PlayReady to other Intermediate Product licensees and/or PlayReady Final Product licensees.

PlayReady Final Products can be distributed to end-users.

device licensing

Final Product means:

  • a software product that
    1. is in a final form of design and development with a fully functional user interface, and
    2. is intended for distribution to and/or use by end users, or
  • a hardware product that
    1. is in a final form of manufacturing with a fully functional user interface, and
    2. is intended for distribution to and/or use by end users; or
  • a service offering that
    1. is intended for commercial access and/or use by end users, and
    2. displays a Company-owned brand and/or logo as the most prominently displayed brand in the user interface (e.g., a Company-branded online music service).
What server/service distribution rights does PlayReady offer?

The PlayReady server agreements do not provide distribution rights of the PlayReady Server SDK. It must be provided by Microsoft. Licensees can distribute the server applications on top of the PlayReady Server SDK.

server/service distribution rights
When are royalties due for software downloads?

Royalties for software applications that are downloaded from publicly available online app stores (e.g., Android Play, iTunes Store, Windows Store, etc.) are due when such applications first receive PlayReady protected content. Software applications using this "activation" based model can only receive PlayReady licenses from a PlayReady server operating under a server license agreement approved for PlayReady Software Applications. Licensees of such agreements will be made available at http://www.microsoft.com/playready/licensing/list/ and are identified as "PlayReady Server Licensees (Approved for Software Applications)".

For software applications that are distributed from an OEM factory, royalties are due when distributed.

How are royalties calculated for PlayReady Server?

The PlayReady server royalties are based on an "active client" model of $0.02 per client per quarter. An active client is a device or app that has obtained a PlayReady license from a PlayReady server in a given quarter. For example, if a PlayReady server for the "Contoso" video service distributes PlayReady licenses to a tablet, TV, and video game console for a single customer in a given quarter, the royalty would be 3 x $0.02. If the following quarter only the TV received a PlayReady license, then the royalty would be 1 x $0.02.

Do I need to pay a License Fee more than once during the term of my PlayReady agreement?

The one-time license fee is for the duration of the term of the agreement. $30,000 shall be invoiced once per three year period upon execution of any Microsoft PlayReady Server agreement. For example, a customer who signs both a Server Development license and a Server Deployment license would pay a single $30,000 license fee on only one of these agreements. A customer who paid this fee for expired agreements more than 3 years ago would again receive this charge for new agreements.

What is the licensing process?

To review the licensing process and timeline for PlayReady license agreements please visit the WMLA Licensing website: http://public.wmlalicensing.com/public/. Additional questions about the licensing process may be sent directly to WMLA@microsoft.com.