The European Union (EU) today agreed to the takeoverof anti-piracy software firm ContentGuard by Microsoft, Time Warner andFrance's Thomson.

The company, currently owned by Rank Xerox, producesdigital rights management (DRM) technology. That enables media companies tocontrol and monitor use of digital content in order to collect due royalties.

The EU launched a year-long investigation into thetakeover, first proposed last April, involving only Microsoft and Time Warner.The bid was scrapped and replaced by a three way joint venture involvingThomson, the owner of Technicolor and Grass Valley that supplies services andequipment to the film, post-production, TV and games sectors.

"Microsoft will no longer have the ability to imposein ContentGuard a licensing policy that would put its rivals in the DigitalRights Management solutions market at a competitive disadvantage,'' said theEU's Competition Commission in a statement.

While the deal could mean a wider deployment of thesoftware, Philip Lowe, the Commission's director, said that the EU willcontinue to monitor the licensing practice of ContentGuard following thetakeover. 'We'll have to monitor what goes on in the market,' hesaid.