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Summary:

[qi:035] An arcane little agreement between Hollywood studios, consumer electronics companies and CableLabs — the industry group that helps set the technology standards for the cable operators — could have long-term ramifications for how we (the people) consume digital content inside our homes. The agreement centers […]

[qi:035] An arcane little agreement between Hollywood studios, consumer electronics companies and CableLabs — the industry group that helps set the technology standards for the cable operators — could have long-term ramifications for how we (the people) consume digital content inside our homes.

The agreement centers on Digital Transmission Copy Protection over IP technology  (DTCP-IP), which is meant to protect content that comes over digital cable and is then pushed around over in-home IP networks.

The approval permits CableLabs licensees under DFAST, CHILA, and DCAS to protect pay-per-view and video-on-demand transmissions against unauthorized copying and unauthorized Internet retransmission, while assuring consumers’ ability to record broadcast and subscription programming, in digital formats, for personal use.

DTCP is the creation of DTLA, also known as “5C,” after the five companies that got together in 1998 and proposed the standard. Hitachi, Intel (INTC), Matsushita (MC), Sony (SNE) and Toshiba came to together to jointly develop the DTCP technology for the protection of audiovisual and audio content against unauthorized interception or retransmission in the digital home environment. (More on their Wikipedia page.)

All the parties involved are spinning it like this is a great thing for the consumer, but whenever incumbents and Hollywood are involved in something, there is a good chance the consumer is getting shafted. If you have any additional insights, please let us know via the comments section. Of course, you can always email us.

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  1. OM – it is a postive development and will spur activity in the converged home. People have been working on this for a while now – DTCP-IP has been in the assumptions for the OCAP Home Networking Extensions (Cable Labs).

    Intel was one of the biggest proponents of DTCP-IP, and a couple of months ago Intel finally signed up supporting OCAP. So we are seeing parties with competing veiws coming together – and it has to be a net postive for the consumer. Just because Content Protection is involved, it does not mean ill for the consumer – it will open up the opportuinity for device manufacturers to participate in the Cable Ecosystem.

    If DTCP-IP becomes a reality, I would suggest there will be more competition for the Slingbox and Joost of the world – and competition is always good for the consumer.

    This is not “incumbents and Hollywood” – it is the Cable World and the Device World (IP guys) getting together to implement solutions that bring good content to the converged home.

    OM you should pursue a fair writeup on this matter – too many out there are putting some crazy spins on this – our friends at Crunch Gear (vis Ars Technica) being one in that esteemed bunch. As their title reads – “So Long CableCARD, Here Comes DTCP-IP” http://crunchgear.com/2007/08/24/so-long-cablecard-here-comes-dtcp-ip/#respond-
    which of course goes to show they dont’t know the first thing either one!

    Here is a suggestion for the next episode of GigaOM show – invite the guys from Cable Labs and DTLA (or even just an Intel person) for some grilling on the GigaOM skewers – Fair, Balanced, and of course GiGa!

  2. “Content Protection” ALWAYS means “Placing restrictions on the consumer’s rights”.

    Protecting the license agreement for a piece of content is fine – provided, of course, that Fair Use is also protected. By requiring a specialized piece of hardware to play, store, transmit or otherwise use your content, you are cutting into that Fair Use provision.

    Without the content protection systems, a consumer can view the content on any system under his control, and he can transfer the content to other media to view it on otherwise incompatible equipment.

    With the content protection systems, the content providers are engaging in anti-competitive behavior. They license not only the content, but also the equipment used to play and store that content. They can prohibit a particular company from manufacturing equipment capable of reading the protected content.

    Yes, Content Protection means “Shafting the shrewd consumer”

  3. @Dave – DTCP-IP and OCAP are standards for everyone to use. No one is prohibited from using it – quite the contrary. And allowing you to bring the content that comes through your cable box to other user interfaces is actually giving consumers more choices not less.

    Where is the choice today to port content from your Cable Box? The agreement creates more fair use – not less, more choies, devices.

    Ever thought about viewing your TV programming on your PC without paying for another access point. DTCP-IP does just that – gives you more choices.

  4. Restricting distribution never equates to more freedom or choices for consumers, it just herds them into illegal distribution channels in search of content they can actually own and use as they see fit. If content providers want consumers to pay for content, they should allow them to acquire and view it when, where, and how ever the consumer wants.

  5. I’m not too worried about it. I don’t think it will become a major factor in home entertainment anyways.

  6. The obscurity of the agreement and its participants probably doesn’t help its perception.

    Realistically, looks like this could fall on either side of the line of good or bad for consumers. It depends in part on how the DRM encryption is implemented.

    If it’s not a burden to consumers, and you’re free within your home, than it has the potential to strike a balance between consumer Fair Use issues and giving content producers the piracy protections the absence of which they use as a blockade to prevent new technologies from displaying their products.

    On one side of the scale, the comfort this provides content companies and manufactures could well inspire a host of new products that otherwise have been slow to market. Other side, if the implementation becomes an obstacle for consumers, or an added cost, call it “the shaft.”

    Personally, I haven’t seen or found enough detail on the implementation to know how it will really be applied.

    I wrote a somewhat detailed article on the standard and this same debate on my own site earlier today but I’d welcome more detail. For those interested here is the link: http://metue.com/08-24-2007/cablelabs-dtcp-standards/

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