The MPEG - 21 standard, from the Moving Picture Experts Group, aims at defining an open framework for multimedia applications. MPEG - 21 is ratified in the standards ISO / IEC 21000 - Multimedia framework (MPEG - 21).

MPEG - 21 is based on two essential concepts:

  1. definition of a Digital Item (a fundamental unit of distribution and transaction)
  2. users interacting with Digital Items

Digital Items can be considered the kernel of the Multimedia Framework and the users can be considered as who interacts with them inside the Multimedia Framework. At its most basic level, MPEG - 21 provides a framework in which one user interacts with another one, and the object of that interaction is a Digital Item. Due to that, we could say that the main objective of the MPEG - 21 is to define the technology needed to support users to exchange, access, consume, trade or manipulate Digital Items in an efficient and transparent way.

MPEG - 21 Part 9: File Format defined the storage of an MPEG - 21 Digital Item in a file format based on the ISO base media file format, with some or all of Digital Item's ancillary data (such as movies, images or other non - XML data) within the same file.

MPEG - 21 defines also a "Rights Expression Language" standard as means of managing restrictions for digital content usage. As an XML - based standard, MPEG - 21 is designed to communicate machine - readable license information and do so in a "ubiquitous, unambiguous and secure" manner.

Among the aspirations for this standard that the industry hopes will put an end to file sharing is that it will constitute: "A normative open framework for multimedia delivery and consumption for use by all the players in the delivery and consumption chain. This open framework will provide content creators, producers, distributors and service providers with equal opportunities in the MPEG - 21 enabled open market.

The seven key elements in MPEG - 21 are

  1. Digital item declaration, to establish a uniform and flexible abstraction and interoperable schema for declaring digital items.

  2. Digital item identification and description, to establish a framework for standardized identification and description of digital items, regardless of their origin, type, or granularity.

  3. Content management and usage, to provide an interface and protocol that facilitate management and use (searching, caching, archiving, distributing, etc.) of the content.

  4. Intellectual property management and protection (IPMP), to enable contents to be reliably managed and protected.

  5. Terminals and networks, to provide interoperable and transparent access to content with Quality of Service (QoS) across a wide range of networks and terminals.

  6. Content representation. To represent content in an adequate way to pursuing the objective of MPEG - 21, namely "content anytime anywhere".

  7. Event reporting, to establish metrics and interfaces for reporting events (user interactions), so as to understand performance and alternatives.

Most of the nine parts of MPEG - 21 will become international standards by 2003. The development of MPEG - 21 involved collaborative work with numerous other international organizations and standards bodies including W3C, Multiservice Switching Forum (MSF), Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), and Digital Audio Visual Council (DAVIC). The objective of the standard appears ambitious. It remains to be seen how effective and influential it will be compared to MPEG's earlier (extremely) successful standards.

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