September, 2010

Too late for an early VOD window?

DRM One of the objections raised by opponents of the MPAA’s petition for a waiver of the FCC’s ban on selectable output controls when it was originally filed was that turning off analog outputs for movies in a new premium VOD window would “break” as many 25 million consumer devices that lacked digital connections. While “break” may have been overstating the case a bit — the non-HDCP compliant devices would continue to operate as they always had — and the 25 million figure was disputed, there’s no doubt that some significant number of households would not have been able to access the new service at any price, premium or otherwise.

The MPAA countered that allowing such “high-value” early release content to go over unprotected analog outputs was too risky, given the impact that piracy in an early window could have on downstream distribution channels, and that half a loaf was better than none. Why should no one be able to watch movies in the new window, they asked, just because some people can’t? Read More »

Warner Bros.: Never mind that HDCP hack

DRM The recently confirmed release of the HDCP master key does not seem to have deterred at least one studio from moving ahead with plans for an early, premium VOD window wedged between movies’ theatrical and Blu-ray  debuts. Speaking at a media investors conference in New York Thursday, Time Warner CFO John Martin confirmed that Warner Bros. will begin offering early release VOD films starting next year.

“The idea would be 30 or 60 days after a movie is released into the theaters, allowing an event VOD type of service offering for, I don’t know, $20, $30 for those people that maybe like me, have kids,” Martin said. “You don’t always have the flexibility to get out to the movie theaters. It’s an idea that we’ve been talking about and we’re likely going to experiment with, perhaps as early as sometime the beginning of next year.” Read More »

Conscripting ISPs into the piracy fight going global

Update: This post has been edited to correct errors in the original regarding the French HADOPI procedures.

Copyright Lots of action around file-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic this week, all of it adding to the copyright policing burden of ISPs.

In France, birth place of three-strikes legislation, the first batch of IP addresses has been sent to the new HADOPI agency by copyright owners, the first step in sending out warning letters to the individuals behind those addresses that they’re in the legal cross-hairs over their file-swapping.

According to French media reports, HADOPI has so far sent 800-1,000 requests to ISPs to identify the individuals behind those addresses. ISPs must respond within eight days or face potential fines up to €1,500 (US $1,997) per unidentified address. A third offense could lead to those individuals being referred to a judge for possible sanction, including having their Internet access cut off, under the three-strikes law passed by the Sarkozy government last year. Read More »

Apple’s cloudy deal with Rovi

Apple TV I’m beginning to think Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray is going to build his own all-in-one Apple TV just to prove it’s really happening. He’s been banging the drum for an Apple-branded big-screen TV with built-in DVR for close to two years now, first predicting it would launch by 2011, then pushing the date back to 2012. Lately he’s been hedging a bit, predicting an arrival in the next two to four years.

On Monday Munster was back again, citing Apple’s mysterious new licensing deal with Rovi as further evidence of an Apple TV/DVR on the way. Here’s the nut of his argument, via Business Insider:

  • Apple Licenses TV Guide Technology From Rovi; Further Evidence Of An Apple Television. Earlier today (9/20), Rovi, owners of television guidance technology Interactive Program Guide (IPG), announced a licensing deal covering Guide technology for Apple’s services (e.g. iTunes) and devices (e.g. Apple TV, iPad). We believe this announcement is further evidence that Apple is developing live TV and DVR features for its Apple TV product, and will likely launch an all-in-one Apple Television in the next 2-4 years. Following its deal with Rovi, Apple would be clear to add live TV, DVR, and guidance features to its Apple TV product, which we believe is a critical step towards an all-in-one Apple Television. Read More »

HDCP hack confirmed

DRM Intel officials did their best last night to downplay the potential impact of the breach of HDCP copy protection even as they confirmed that the purported master key that appeared on several web sites earlier this week is in fact the genuine article.

“We can use it to generate valid device keys that do interoperate with the (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) protocol,” an Intel spokesman told CNET Thursday. Using the master key, it would be possible to build a device that could play, decrypt and potentially record copy-protected HD content. But as a practical matter, the spokesman said, “that’s a difficult and costly thing to do,” because it would require fabbing chips .

“We believe that this technology will remain effective,” the spokesman said. “There’s a large install base of licensed devices including several hundred licensees that will continue to use it and in any case, were a (circumvention) device to appear that attempts to take advantage of this particular hack there are legal remedies, particularly under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).” Read More »