Nokia will license Microsoft's PlayReady DRM (digital rights management) technology. The move should give Nokia service providers a greater choice of copy-protection software.

The deal extends Nokia's existing copy protection offerings, which include Windows Media DRM 10.0 and OMA DRM (Open Alliance Mobile DRM), Steven Knuff, a spokesman at Nokia's multimedia division, said today.

Nokia plans to support PlayReady across a range of devices using the S60 and S40 user interface platforms beginning in 2008. Microsoft released its PlayReady Client Porting Kit earlier this month.

"It's all about choice," Knuff said. "If customers want a particular DRM technology, then we'll provide it."

Designed to combat piracy, DRM technologies control the terms in which content downloaded from the Internet can be copied or transferred to other devices. But some critics, including Apple CEO Steve Jobs, have argued that DRM is complex to implement and can unfairly prevent people from playing music or videos they purchase on any device they want.

Nokia is banking on PlayReady to help resolve this issue. One of the system's significant features, according to Knuff, is its ability to let users move content, including music, video and games, to other "designated" devices for playback. The technology allows service providers to identify a "domain" of several devices for each customer on which they can play the content they purchase, according to a Microsoft paperabout PlayReady.

The technology can also define certain restrictions about a file, such as a "right to play" but not a "right to burn to CD", the paper says.

Microsoft unveiled PlayReady at the 3GSM conference and exhibition earlier this year. Several operators, including AT&T, Bouygues Telecom SA and Telefónica SA, have said they plan to use it. The technology is compatible with Windows Media DRM 10.0, which Nokia licensed in 2005.

Knuff declined to comment on whether the most recent DRM agreement with Microsoft would have an impact on Nokia's rumoured plans to launch an online music and mobile content store, following the company's acquisition of US digital music distributor Loudeye.

"We can't talk about what we're going to offer on that website yet," Knuff said. "But I can tell you that technology such as DRM will play a key role in the services that we announce in the near future."

Nokia is developing DRM software of its own but has no current plans to license the technology, according to Knuff. "We don't have anything as fully featured as OMA DRM or Microsoft PlayReady," he said.

What flavour of DRM will dominate the nascent market for broadcast mobile TV services remains to be seen, according to the spokesman. One of the reasons for the indecision, he said, is that the implementation of new broadcast mobile TV services is "still up in the air".