updated 03:00 pm EDT, Thu October 22, 2009
Disney Keychest may have Apple's help
Disney is developing an approach to digital media that would eliminate the need for device-specific rights, the company said late yesterday (subscription required). Unofficially known as Keychest, it would copy protect content but give lifetime permission to access that content a given number of devices. It would behave as a more universal form of the rights management of Amazon Video On Demand and let users save space by streaming content, though downloads wouldn't be an option.
Keychest should be more formally unveiled in November, though for what platforms and formats isn't known. Apple is considered a possible candidate as its CEO Steve Jobs is a member of Disney's board, though Apple already has its FairPlay format and typically prefers its in-house technology to that from outsiders. One rumor has talked about the possibility of a streaming service for iTunes known as iTunes Replay, but little has surfaced of it since its first mention.
Implementing Keychest may prove difficult as it would be controlled by one studio and reduce the incentive for others to participate. Most major studios have already banded together to create a rival standard known as DECE that would achieve the same effect. Apple and Disney have both abstained from the effort so far.
Critics have also charged that pushing access-only formats give too much control to the content producers and would bar access whenever Internet access isn't available or would give them arbitrary rights to pull content, such as for censorship reasons or if the producer or retailer goes out of business.