Industry coalition pushes flexible, 'domain-based' DRM

After years of attempting to shove digital rights management down users' throats, the music industry finally got the message. Today, "DRM-free MP3" is the new buzzword for online music vendors, and even Apple sells unprotected music on its iTunes Store.

According to the LA Times, the movie industry is looking at a way to avoid a similar fate. Sony Pictures executive Mitch Singer has been working with other studio execs, technology firms, Internet service providers, and retailers for over a year to develop a "new approach to distributing content digitally." This approach is known as the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), and the LA Times describes it as follows:

The ecosystem envisioned by Singer et al revolves around a common set of formats, interfaces and other standards. Devices built to the DECE specifications would be able to play any DECE-branded content and work with any DECE-certified service. The goal is to create for downloads the same kind of interoperability that's been true for physical products, such as CDs and DVDs. Where it gets really interesting, though, is the group's stated intention to make digital files as flexible and permissive as CDs, at least within the confines of someone's personal domain. Once you've acquired a file, you could play it on any of your devices -- if it couldn't be passed directly from one DECE-ready device to another, you'd be allowed to download additional copies. And when you're away from home, you could stream the file to any device with a DECE-compatible Web browser.

Ideally, the article goes on to say, consumers wouldn't even notice the DRM unless they tried to share content with a friend—quite a departure from current DRM schemes, which can get in the way of even basic tasks.

That leaves the question of who will actually participate (and whether this will end up as a half-baked effort like Microsoft's PlaysForSure). The LA times mentions that "several big-name brands in computers, networking and consumer electronics" have already signed up to participate, but the list is missing a few big names: Apple, Dell, Disney, and Samsung. At least the reasoning behind this scheme sounds somewhat refreshing. "The group's goal is to meet consumers' expectations for what they can do (legally) with media . . . and those expectations are based on what people have been able to do with content that has no DRM," Intel's Jeff Lawrence told the paper.

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