In the summer of 2004, Wigger began to evaluate possible solutions, such as StarForce, a DRM provider specializing in gaming, educational, entertainment, and business software protection. GSU's coursework is comprised of many file types, however, and Wigger found that StarForce protects only EXE files. Additionally, pricing was based per use and required students to use dongles, so ultimately, Wigger decided that "the solution was too much money for the end user."
GSU had previously worked with IBM for content management and portal software and was working with the company in the development of its online store, so naturally Wigger discussed her DRM problem with IBM. Though IBM had been beta testing an E-DRM solution, the company didn't go forward with it. When IBM realized it couldn't serve all of GSU's needs, it set out to find a product that would help complete the solution and brought SealedMedia to Wigger's attention. While there is no formal partnership between IBM and SealedMedia, Martin White, VP, client services worldwide for SealedMedia, compliments IBM's desire to help GSU, attributing it to "good customer service and support."
After testing SealedMedia's E-DRM solution for five days in January and again in May 2005, Wigger decided it suited GSU's needs. "We liked the possibilities we saw in demo'ing the product," says Wigger. "We had several file formats, for example, PDFs and JPEGs that we needed to protect. They could accommodate this particular aspect, which helped lead us to the decision of using SealedMedia." Other formats that GSU needed to protect and deliver included "small videos, as in MPGs and MOVs, as well as HTML," all of which work with the SealedMedia E-DRM product.
In addition to technical implementation advice, SealedMedia also provides business consulting to GSU, including how to best productize its content. For example, GSU had planned to sell each content file separately. SealedMedia advised them to package the content "into suitable products, with each package comprising ‘collections' of content," according to White. "This enables GSU to sell at a premium price, and thus increase projected revenues and profit margins while reducing anticipated technical costs.
"In GSU's case," White says, "the organization ‘seals' its valuable content files, which are burned to a CD. When a user first opens the CD, they are led through an online purchase process that authorizes them to open the content. The software that polices—if you will—this authorization and access control is SealedMedia E-DRM, configured to suit GSU's needs."
The first GSU undertaking that used the SealedMedia solution involved protecting 29 tennis learning modules, which are designed to help German Tennis Federation coaches more effectively teach certain aspects of the game. According to White, a particular module may show the forehand of professional tennis players like Andre Agassi or Michael Stich, with graphical overlays of arm and racket position.
GSU worked with the German Tennis Federation, an organization consisting of almost two million members that promotes the training and spreading of the sport, in developing these modules. SealedMedia's E-DRM solution protected these assets. Having robust piracy protection in place helped strengthen the partnership between GSU and the German Tennis Federation, which has invested in helping finance further production of learning materials and training modules. Once the Federation recoups initial costs, the two will split profits.
The content contained in the first module is currently available via CD. Other tennis modules are in the authoring stages, which GSU hopes to have completed by the end of next year. GSU has plans to expand the range of digital products it offers, including extending the range of tennis-related material and expanding into other sports, such as basketball and soccer, as well as cross-sport topics, such as nutrition and strength training. "We're building an online store for all of our products," says Wigger. "As we continue to supply more and more products based on intellectual capital that need to be protected, SealedMedia will be integral to the process."
As of this writing, GSU's implementation of the solution was in the initial stages, so only time will tell if GSU will ace its digital coursework objectives. "We are starting the epublishing business from scratch," says Wigger, who is optimistic about the project so far. "We are not only saving money, but making money where it was not possible for us before."