What do you think companies can come up with when faced with people illegally sharing copyrighted material such as music or movies? One solution would be to encrypt the files and allow only people who have payed for it to play such files (DRM). Another would be to store a reference to a streamed and encrypted file. The latter is known as "content reference".
When using files that do not contain the actual data, but just a reference to where the data is to be found one circumvents the problem that arises when sharing the actual contents. In fact you can be rewarded for sharing it with others and even sharing it on systems like Kazaa won't present a problem. In fact the files would be nothing more than ads.
A player which tries to play such a file makes the player connect to a "Content Reference Server". Such a server delivers the file in a format compatible with the device. That means that the same reference can be used platform independly. It should be able to deliver the file playabe to Windows, another O/S or even a mobile phone. That is if the content provider has all these formats in store.
The Content Reference Forum (CRF), founded by Universal Music Group and backed by technology companies including Microsoft, released the first specifications for the standard this week.