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Studios plan cross-platform video minus Apple

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.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. boris_cleto

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2002

    +1

    Too Little Too Late

    Nice try M$. Apple owns the market.

  1. rvhernandez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2005

    +4

    Anti-competetive?

    I never heard these guys complaining about Walmart selling too many DVDs for a low price? These guys keep trying to piss off Apple rather than sell product or make media worth paying for.

  1. JulesLt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2005

    +1

    Yawn yawn yawn yawn

    There's plenty of content worth paying for, new and old, more than you could possibly watch, and there's this great was of finding out about it that I've discovered called blogs.

    I don't disagree that the majority of modern films and TV suck, but if you're not looking for and supporting the good stuff, you're part of the problem, not the solution. Capital flows to what makes money and if that is dumb CGI-fest blockbusters, that is what we will get.

  1. ender

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 1999

    +5

    Ecosystem?

    Anything with "Ecosystem" in the name is doomed to failure. :-)

    But seriously, I found this quote in the article interesting: "attempt by Hollywood to avoid the fate of the music industry, which has largely dropped DRM altogether." Interesting because, except for EMI and some independents, don't all of them still require DRM in the iTunes Store content? Also interesting because they continue to fail to recognize the easist way to break the iTunes/iPod "monopoly". If you sell your music on iTunes without DRM, you eliminate the iPod lock (as far as music goes). Your customers are then free to purchase a Zune or other player. Once people start buying other players, Apple's strangle hold will diminish. Unless of course people are buying iPods because they are simply the best player available. In which case you are screwed no matter what you do, so why fight it?

  1. macnixer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2006

    +3

    Without Apple it is...

    doomed to fail. I would believe that the open DRM structure would be good for the people. Come to think of it, I can see any video I want as long as the disc is a DVD and has the movie on it. I don't have to worry about the player is from a particular vendor and the movie from another.

    But why will it all fail? How many of us have any hardware that is non Apple to be on the go? Almost all. iPods and iPhones are everywhere. A open DRM movie will have to play on my pod and iPhone. If not I am not buying. I am perfectly ok to rent / buy from iTunes when I want to or get the darn DVD from the Library to view it on my DVD player.

    Apple on the other front must realize that times change and they need to change too. Actually Apple has the capability to lead the crowd here by asking them to move to FairPlay and earn on the license. FairPlay has proved itself to be successful too. What does Apple loose? Well some of these darn sneaky "crowd" members aka Micro$oft would like Zune to come up and match the iPod. Frankly I was talking to a friend who planned to buy a MP3 play and initially looked at all the other options and finally settled for iPod. I asked him about Zune and he was "it does not do what the iPod does".

    Well we all know that this effort is a Trojan horse. Should Apple byte this carrot? NOOOOOOOO.

    Let the crowd play and Apple should watch but not for long. When the tide seems to go the other way, Apple can easily release the FairPlay license to other vendors. Just about that. That will be a blow.

    Finally all these DRM stuff, why do you need it. Are the DVD's DRMed? No. Can I copy if I want to? Yes. Do I copy? No. Why not when I have high speed converters? What is the point when I want to watch a movie at high resolution without worrying about FBI knocking my door cause I have a copied version of a movie that costs only $14. Fighting the legal case is lot more. I am better off paying for the movie.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -3

    Re: without apple

    doomed to fail. I would believe that the open DRM structure would be good for the people. Come to think of it, I can see any video I want as long as the disc is a DVD and has the movie on it. I don't have to worry about the player is from a particular vendor and the movie from another.


    And this is the point. The concept is the same as DVDs, except for digital files. Only Apple-lovers would view this as a negative.

    But why will it all fail? How many of us have any hardware that is non Apple to be on the go? Almost all. iPods and iPhones are everywhere. A open DRM movie will have to play on my pod and iPhone. If not I am not buying.

    And another problem is the fact that most people don't see this as the problem. Apple right now has the markets by the nuts in terms of ruling who can do what, which does nothing but limit people's ability to use their content as they see fit.

    Actually Apple has the capability to lead the crowd here by asking them to move to FairPlay and earn on the license.

    I've said this over and over. But they won't do it, because Apple wants to keep their vertical monopoly for as long as possible.

    FairPlay has proved itself to be successful too. What does Apple loose?


    For crying out loud, it's "lose", not "loose"! And they end up losing control.


    Well we all know that this effort is a Trojan horse. Should Apple byte this carrot? NOOOOOOOO.

    Trojan horse? In what sense?

    Let the crowd play and Apple should watch but not for long. When the tide seems to go the other way, Apple can easily release the FairPlay license to other vendors. Just about that. That will be a blow.

    Or they'll just ignore apple, because they see the tide is turning, and they don't have to pay for the open license vs. fairplay.

    Finally all these DRM stuff, why do you need it. Are the DVD's DRMed? No.

    Um, I think here's your problem. YES THEY ARE! That's why you need specific software or hardware to read a DVD. And DVDs aren't in HD (although BluRay is).

    Can I copy if I want to? Yes.

    Um, this is up for debate, esp. with regards to the DCMA.

    What is the point when I want to watch a movie at high resolution without worrying about FBI knocking my door cause I have a copied version of a movie that costs only $14.

    Which is great, if you buy from Apple, and have a machine running Apple software to play the video.

    But wouldn't it be better if you could go anywhere to buy an HD version of a movie, and be able to play it on any device, be it an iPod, Zune, AppleTV, or some dinky Windows Media PC?

    Oh, right, forgot where I post such silly questions.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Junior Member

    Joined: Apr 1999

    +4

    No Thanks...

    @testudo: DMCA or no, the fact that DVDs are extremely easy to rip in standard formats and use on ANY device imaginable is impossible to argue with. This "open" DRM system still won't let you use the content on devices that don't participate in this "open" licensing system, and so something in a standard format will always be worth more to the end user than content protected by this system.

    The other factor that will lead to this product's failure is that all these systems rely on geeky early adopters to gain traction, so that word of mouth can be used to spread awareness, and those particular users won't be touching this with a 10-foot pole, since they would be losing control over the usage of the content on non-approved and legacy devices. Without word of mouth and videophile/geek acceptance, no marketing campaign will be able to create a single standard without leaving the market wide open for someone to displace them, since they're choosing to wage a war on their most adamant users.

  1. ender

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 1999

    +1

    Good idea

    It's a good idea as long as: 1) it's based on an open specification that any company can integrate into their software/hardware and; and 2) it restricts someone (ie, Microsoft) from "enhancing" the format and making their version incompatible with everyone elses.

    So Apple could make a DECEPlayer that will play any DECE content, and they have the option to incorporate DECE-DRM into iTunes, iPods, AppleTV, etc. As soon as someone says "you must download XYZ Component from ABC Corp" (esp if ABC is MS) and now I'm at the whim of ABC Corp to support my platform, then all bets are off.

    Apple would initially resist. But I think if it proved to be a viable model, they would eventually join in. They have embraced many open standards over the past several years when the standard was not dependent on a 3rd party for Mac support (like Flash is).

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -4

    Re: no thanks

    @testudo: DMCA or no, the fact that DVDs are extremely easy to rip in standard formats and use on ANY device imaginable is impossible to argue with.

    That's all well and good, until the DVD goes by the wayside (Steve says physical media is dead!).

    And what of all the people who prefer the joy of downloading a movie to play, you know, the AppleTV way? Right now, if you don't want to get the DVD, you buy from Apple. Then it's limited to just Apple devices. This isn't a better system. It's worse.

    This "open" DRM system still won't let you use the content on devices that don't participate in this "open" licensing system, and so something in a standard format will always be worth more to the end user than content protected by this system.

    Assuming that your content is in a 'standard' format that is supported by a device. There's no difference whether a Zune can't play one of these DRM songs or an AAC formatted song, if it doesn't support AAC.

    As to Apple embracing open standards, they do when it suits their needs. But they also do a great job of keeping other tech 'closed' to hold people in. Apple came out with their AppleLossless codec years ago, despite their being open lossless formats out there. No big deal, except they've never released the format for Apple Lossless, so if you went "Hey, I'm going to put all my music in AL for best quality possible!", you're now stuck with using iTunes to play it. They could make it open, but they don't.

    The same goes with Fairplay. Why not just license it out (for audio and video)? What's the problem? Oh, right. Then people with iPods might get their music/videos from other on-line stores, or buy from Apple but use it on other players.

    Apple doesn't care about DRM music now, because they already 'won' the player war (plus they've sold so much protected content people are stuck with them from now on). He gave some lame excuse for not licensing FairPlay based on "We'd have to fix any cracks to the DRM, and if more people have it, the more likely the holes will be found!" excuse (which sounds a lot like the "Keep the software closed-source, and no one will find the security problems - works great on windows!).

    But you don't see Steve pushing for DRM-free video, like he did with music (and only when they'd already got market covered, BTW). Apple doesn't want open-DRM, because it could harm its business models (just like they don't want just anyone selling any app for the iPhone, they want their cut).

  1. WiseWeasel

    Junior Member

    Joined: Apr 1999

    -1

    Re: Re: No Thanks...

    @Testudo:
    That's all well and good, until the DVD goes by the wayside

    What makes you think BluRay will be any different than the situation we have with DVDs? That format is also cracked wide open, and the only reason it's not more commonly used is that the blank media and burners are still too expensive.

    And what of all the people who prefer the joy of downloading a movie to play, you know, the AppleTV way? Right now, if you don't want to get the DVD, you buy from Apple. Then it's limited to just Apple devices. This isn't a better system. It's worse.

    Right now, you buy the DVD and rip it to H.264 for playback on the AppleTV. That's what I do, and it's perfect. There are no video stores that sell standard formats, or easily cracked formats like DVDs or BluRay via download, so those are our only options. This new DRM format won't play on your AppleTV in any case, so your argument is moot. I agree that we're moving away from shiny discs as a playback medium, but for distribution, nothing offers the same level of access to the user.

    Assuming that your content is in a 'standard' format that is supported by a device. There's no difference whether a Zune can't play one of these DRM songs or an AAC formatted song, if it doesn't support AAC.

    Are you seriously asking this? It doesn't matter whether the Zune can't play an AAC file (which it can, so that's not a great example), because you can use any number of apps to convert that AAC to WMA or whatever other format you want. Once you add DRM, you can no longer convert to another format. Thanks for supporting my argument.

    As for Apple's stance towards open standards, that's neither here nor there. It's ultimately up to the customer to decide what they want to spend their hard-earned cash on, and Apple must still cater to those desires. For their music store, the wind is clearly blowing towards DRM-free, and it's only a matter of time before they switch over or Amazon puts a serious dent in their marketshare. Not only that, but they offer a supported mechanism to remove the DRM by burning to standard CDDA. With their video store, their DRM has no workarounds, and the market is still wide open since no distributor is offering anything significantly better than shiny discs at this point from a customer usability perspective. Apple can do what they want with their video store, but I'll continue to encourage people to avoid it until they take a more customer-friendly approach.

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