Xerox Corp. announced new software last Monday at the Seybold Publishing Seminars in San Francisco that promises to spur e-commerce by protecting copyright online and automating the tasks that most bog down publishers in putting copyrighted materials online.

ContentGuard, developed by Xerox's Palo Alto, Calif., Rights Management Group, has units that clear copyrights automatically and let publishers define rights, licenses and fees as necessary; that tie in to encryption and delivery software from other companies such as Adobe Systems' Acrobat; and that track and report usage back to the publisher.

According to Prasad Ram, general manager of XRMG, "Worries about copyright infringement have held publishers back from leveraging the Internet for new business. ContentGuard alleviates those fears, and enables e-business by automating publishers', online merchants' and readers' tasks, making purchases easier."

Ram said four points differentiate ContentGuard. First, customers will not need to add any other software to their systems, as the new releases of software the reader already owns, such as Adobe Acrobat, will contain elements of ContentGuard.

Second, ContentGuard automatically checks for rights and license agreements, and clears all rights before sending the requested work. Third, CG is fully integrated with e-commerce programs to approve credit and complete payment to the publisher (Barnes & Noble and e-retailer are two of the partners already signed up to use ContentGuard).

And finally, CG is format independent, allowing publishers to make what Xerox terms "self-protecting documents" in Adobe's PDF format, or in HTML, XML or any format likely to be popular for delivering materials in the near future. This last is especially important because most e-book makers have agreed to use the Open eBook standard format, which is based on HTML.

Adobe Key Partner

Adobe Systems is a key partner in this first announcement for two reasons. First, John Warnock, CEO of Adobe, said there are more than 100 million copies of Acrobat Reader in use now, allowing readers to view documents regardless of their brand of viewing machine. Second, most publishers already using digital production to make their books, send files to their printers using the Acrobat PDF format; thus they can take the files from their standard work flow and use them for Web commerce as well as for print.