A new industry group has proposed a new way to share digital content across multiple networks and services (peer-to-peer, music download services, et al). The Content Reference Forum, which comprises Universal Music Group, Microsoft, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) and VeriSign, this week released a new content exchange standard - Baseline Profile Version 1.0 - for public review that uses meta-data to direct users to the appropriate source of content based on contracts signed by the content owners and distributors.The simple description of how the standard works is this: Say an iTunes user wants to share a song with a Linux user. Instead of sending over the content itself, a "Content Reference" is sent instead, containing information about the song and where it can be acquired. The Content Reference refers back to a "Reference Service", in this case it would be iTunes to see if the Linux user can acquire the content and what rules govern it (free, pay, etc.). But since iTunes is not available for Linux, the Reference Service could direct the user to another download service where the same song can be acquired. Besides legal song downloading\/swapping, the CRF Baseline Profile could also be used to govern content distribution contracts. For example, NBC has the rights to broadcast the Olympics in the US, but not abroad. Not a problem for TV, but on the Internet, it's a little harder to limit where content is sent to with just a standard streaming server. Using the CRF Baseline Profile, U.S. users could be directed to NBC's content, while viewers outside the US would be directed to their local Olympic broadcast partner.It's complicated to explain and it sounds a lot like digital rights management, but the authors claim that its different and will work across various DRM implementations. "We'll make use of DRM tech, it adds more to the equation and makes DRM work better," says Mike Miron, president of the content reference forum. "DRM is about consistent enforcement. But before I give out the license, I need to decide what I am going to give to you once you get the license. With DRM alone, you need to know what you want then it governs that content."There's a 90-day review period for the specification and Miron says his group hopes to have it finalized by mid-2004.