UltraViolet gets Hollywood support

UltraViolet gets Hollywood support

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All it took was a near-collapse of the movie industry, and the bankruptcies of Hollywood mainstays like MGM, but the major studios look to be catching up to the 21st Century. Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem announced multiple industry partners at CES 2011 to include all of the major Hollywood studios except for lone wolf Disney.

“The most highly skilled users are already downloading content, making copies and watching on any device they want,” said Mitch Singer, the chief technology officer of Sony Pictures, who has been the key executive behind Ultraviolet. “We’re trying to build a business model for everyone around that behavior.”

UltraViolet is a cross-industry cooperation to provide digital rights ownership by consumers in a simple way. It was developed due to the frustrating way every manufacturer seemed to have their own digital rights management (DRM) which didn’t play well with others.

Each consumer will have a “rights locker” that will receive the DRM information at purchase or rental. The content will be streamed or downloaded from the provider in accordance with the rights stored int he locker. The digital content may be transfered between devices or shared without obtaining additional rights.

Digital content providers signed up so far include Best Buy, Comcast, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba. The content can be shared with up to six friends or family members, and can be transfered or streamed to up to twelve devices. They may also be copied to DVD or flash media for back up.

The studios and distributors retain the right to decide where and how to sel their content with UltraViolet technology, but the retailers will set the prices. Digital copies of movies and TV shows may be purchased or rented with computers, Internet-connected televisions, and with Blu-ray Discs. The estimated cost will be $11 or $12.

The coalition has been hard at work obtaining partnerships with phone, tablet, HDTV, Blu-ray player, video game console and computer manufacturers. Software will need to be implemented on any device to support UltraViolet DRM technology.

The CES 2011 announcement was for content availability from the major motion picture studios. Hardware and retail availability will come later this year. The studios wanted to provide the content now so there are no hurdles to getting the hardware and retail market up and running.

There were hints that UV technology would allow for ripping of DVDs for storage on local hard drives, and possibly in the cloud, with an UltraViolet license. UV-branded Blu-ray and DVD discs would come with a digital “copy-in-the-cloud” for streaming ro downloading. The stored content would be subject to the same terms as downloaded or steamed content.

Notably absent from this major consortium are Disney and Apple. (Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the largest share-holder of Disney.) These companies always went their own way, but they do it incredibly successfully so time will tell if they come to support UltraViolet in the future. Disney has been developing their own system for cloud-based rights management called Keychest. Just like they ad their own layer of encryption on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, Disney will certainly try to do their own thing here.

Unless Apple joins the group, iPhones, iPods and iPads – and maybe even OS X – won’t have access to the UV ecosystem. The die hard Apple fans will justify why they rent movies from iTunes while the rest of the world enjoys lifetime ownership of their collection.

About Steven Kippel

Steven Kippel has worked as a systems designer for a leading high-end audio/video custom integrator in Southern California since 2003. He is responsible for researching new technologies and integrating them into existing systems and new construction projects. He has designed several high-profile systems for discriminating clients on the cutting-edge of technology. When he is not hard at work, Steven is spending time with his wife, playing with his band or promoting concerts and bands in the Inland Empire. His favorite bands include The Cure, U2, Eisley, Living Sacrifice and DragonForce.

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