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Hollywood Proposes New DRM Scheme

Another CES and another new DRM. But this time, at least the consumer has been added to the equation, and not simply considered the enemy as in all previous cases.

Hollywood studios, well everyone except Disney, aims to solve the problem of incompatibility and lack of portability of existing digital downloads. When you rent or buy a digital download, it is often locked to that single device. Their solution to this problem is to have an ecosystem of compatible devices that will allow you to play your purchased/rented files across these devices, after online authentication of course. The proposed system is called Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), and it has the support of all major studios except for Disney (which has its own variation of the same thing in Keychest), and companies including Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Intel and Best Buy.

But while consumers will now get more devices to play their purchased content, everything still requires DRM, and online authentication and other hoops that they will have to jump through. This may mean that users need to connect online everytime they want to watch a movie, and that if their Internet connections fails or the authentication server fails, then their movie collection becomes inaccessible.

Compared to say your typical purchased MP3s, which is DRM free except for non intrusive DRM in the form of identification information (which is a deterrent against piracy, although just like all other forms of DRM, can be easily stripped), and how easy it is to transfer and play these MP3s on various devices, you can see that DECE (and Keychest) seems to be Hollywood’s attempt at delaying the inevitable. The inevitable being DRM free movies along the same lines as MP3s. Those that go through the pirate route will still pirate, and no amount of DRM will stop pirated versions being leaked online. So all intrusive DRM does is to confuse and annoy consumers, and as the music industry found out, consumers are not willing to put up with it. It seems Hollywood is not learning from the mistakes of the music industry, although it is trying to placate the average consumer’s disdain for DRM by making it more compatible, and only time will tell if this works.