updated 11:40 am EDT, Mon September 15, 2008
Studios Form DECE
Several movie studios and hardware manufacturers have unwrapped plans to produce a universal approach to copy-protected video that would escape a dependence on any one format and would also loosen some restrictions on video. To be called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the initiative currently includes Fox, NBC Universal, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. as well as Windows Media creator Microsoft, Comcast and hardware makers that include Cisco, Philips and Toshiba. Best Buy and Verisign are also involved.
The collective's early plan would create an open standard with widely compatible video across several platforms and would attempt to bridge the difference between highly restrictive current services and video with no DRM (digital rights management) locks at all. While copy protection would still exist, DECE would permit unlimited burning to discs and would have stream-anywhere permission similar to Amazon VOD where rights are remembered on a central system.
Notable omissions from the early DECE roster include Apple and its closely linked studio partner Disney. The former is widely believed to have a vested interest in its iTunes-only FairPlay video protection and has company chief Steve Jobs on the board of directors at Disney. Sony Pictures CTO Mitch Singer is careful to note that the absence of a company doesn't indicate resistance but also makes clear a desire by the existing members to undermine the iTunes ecosystem, which already dictates much of digital music but has yet to claim a similar grip on movies.
"We're going in a slightly different direction than Apple by offering more choice in terms of storefront and device," Singer says.
More information should be available about DECE at the CES expo in January.
The effort comes amid significant shifts that may potentially hurt the new group. NBC Universal recently returned to iTunes after a long pricing dispute and is matched by the formal rollout of Amazon's web streaming service, which shares the same central rights approach proposed by DECE. However, neither currently allows disc burning and requires visiting a single portal to buy or rent videos.