VIDEO CODEC FIRM Rovi claims that so-called 'digital rights management' - which The INQUIRER and others call 'digital restrictions management' (DRM) - will move from per file encryption to codec licensing, claiming it will give consumers greater freedom.
Rovi, owner of the DivX video codec, has recently inked deals with consumer electronic giants LG and Samsung so that all of their future televisions and smartphones can play back video encoded in DivX format. According to Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist at Rovi, owning a codec such as DivX is vital to enable DRM to become more consumer friendly.
Bullwinkle was surprisingly candid with his views on DRM and said, "no one has ever gone into a store and asked I want a really good DRM." Instead Bullwinkle said that customers "want to be able to play the software anywhere", adding that done properly "you'll never know about DRM".
The seamless integration of DRM has been talked about before but what Bullwinkle proposes is the ability to limit content playback to devices that support a particular codec. Essentially the licensing fee paid by manufacturers such as LG and Samsung and eventually passed on to consumers can subsidise the cost of content, with codec owners such as Rovi also picking up a piece of the action.
Bullwinkle said that while some of the services powered by Rovi's technology, which include Apple's Itunes, Spotify and Pandora, do impose limits on the number of devices on which users can play back purchased content at any one time, the nonimated devices can be changed.
Most consumers of media appreciate that in order to keep prices at anything like reasonable levels, there will be some limits on the number of people that are allowed to listen to the music track or watch the video. The problem was that previous incarnations of DRM essentially tied files down to specific devices, on the assumption that one person will only ever use that device. That assumption is correct in most cases, but as online streaming services have shown, people want to listen to music or watch video on a several devices without having to pay for every device.
Rovi's tweaking of DRM is perhaps the most logical solution, according to Bullwinkle, one that not only meets the needs of most consumers but gives the MAFIAA the win that it so wants, and puts an end to the practice of speculative invoicing.
Bullwinkle's second point about the cost of music tracks and video titles being subsidised through the device vendors' cost of licensing a codec also serves as a good half way house for consumers, he claims, because many of them are perfectly willing to put up with sensible DRM in order to get cut price music and movies legally.
Perhaps Bullwinkle's comments are a sign that the music and film MAFIAA cartels have finally realised that being reasonable with consumers could end up increasing their revenues. What all this means is that owning a codec could become just as profitable as owning the content itself. µ
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