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Europe expresses doubts about ContentGuard

The European Commission has raised new doubts about the joint purchase of the antipiracy software company ContentGuard by Microsoft and Time Warner. It announced it has renewed an investigation of the deal.

The commission set April 7 as the new deadline to complete its review, at the same time raising questions about the way Microsoft conducted itself, the New York Times reported. The investigation was suspended in December until Microsoft provided more information to the commission.

A commission spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said, the deal involved patents for the potentially lucrative market in software for managing digital rights. The software prevents the swapping of music and movies that Web surfers once did through Napster.

Microsoft and Time Warner expected no problems in gaining approval, the Times reported, but the commission surprised them in August by opening an investigation. It said Microsoft might gain or increase a dominant position in digital rights.

The companies responded by bringing in Thomson of France as a third equal player. The commission cannot review deals that are controlled equally by more than two companies. Now the commission is asking if the companies followed its rules when they brought Thomson on board by selling it shares in ContentGuard.

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