Has Apple Patented Peer-to-Peer Distribution of Files with DRM?

Digital Music News has published some information about a patent that Apple has been granted for “Decoupling Rights in a Digital Content Unit from Download.” This patent, filed in 2011, and granted two weeks ago, coverts the following:

“Systems and methods for enabling a user to obtain rights in a legitimate copy of a digital content unit without downloading the copy from a digital content store are provided. The systems and methods provide an encrypted copy of a digital content unit to a first user and transcript the encrypted copy to generate the legitimate copy to a second users. The encrypted copy is encrypted with a first encrypt key that may be associated with the first users and the legitimate copy is encrypted with a second encrypt key that may be associated with the second user.”

It sums up, saying that it is “A method for enabling access to a digital content unit that is encrypted suing an encrypt key of a first user and is store on a machine of a second user…”

The document discusses something that looks like peer-to-peer file sharing, while retaining DRM. It “provide[s] systems and methods for granting users a right in a copy of a digital content unit without having to download another copy of the same digital content.”

In other words, it discusses ways in which a user who has encrypted content can obtain this content from another user, while obtaining the digital rights from a digital content store. If you’ve bought a movie from the iTunes Store, you can pass it on to a friend, who, using this system, obtains – on purchase – the necessary keys to access the file from the iTunes Store, without having to re-download the file. This is especially useful for movies, which, in HD, can be 4 to 5 GB or more.

This would be extremely interesting, and allow for a more centralized, peer-to-peer distribution of files. The DRM would prevent anyone from accessing them until they purchased the necessary rights from the iTunes Store.

You can see the full patent document here. If you’re curious, it’s an interesting read, though a bit dense.