As expected, the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA) has released a new content-protection specification. Finalization is expected in June.

The Alliance represents 40 companies (including Apple) from within the Internet multimedia industry. The specification will serve as the technical foundation for the secure delivery of streaming and downloadable media content.

The specification provides a single, end-to-end encryption scheme for streaming media and file downloading that can easily integrate with different key and rights management solutions and licensed content protection devices. It builds on an earlier specification published in 2001.

Alliance president Tom Jacobs said: "The ISMA's new content protection specification represents a significant next step toward greater market adoption of multi-vendor, interoperable streaming media products and services.

"It builds upon existing open standards and provides a core technical foundation for the protection of digital content. It will ultimately enable a wider range of high-value content to be distributed by content owners and help to promote greater product and service interoperability.

"ISMA's goal is to bring the same level of ubiquity and interoperability to streaming that such broadly used technologies as HTML and HTTP have done for the World Wide Web. ISMA's new specification is to secure media delivery what secure sockets layer (SSL) and HTTPS are to secure Web communication."

The new standard is based upon open standards, including 128-bit encryption. This means ISMA's standard is free of royalty fees and intellectual copyright concerns. It is compatible with existing standards and has been designed to integrate easily with existing rights and key management systems.

The Alliance needs to build digital rights management features into its technologies in order to offer the market a viable alternative to Windows Media, which carries proprietary DRM technologies.

ISMA was originally founded in 2000 by Apple, Cisco, IBM, Kasenna, Philips and Sun.