Studios Making Yet Another Go At DRM

Lawyer2_Clipart.jpgIt looks like Hollywood is finally ganging up on Apple. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a group of major studios— excluding “key Apple ally Walt Disney Co.”—is joining with big-name retailers and consumer electronics vendors to attempt to transform paid downloads into an experience akin to buying a DVD, with the goal being that any video purchased at any outlet can be played on any device worldwide.

If you ask us, that’s simple—cut out all the DRM copy protection crap. But naturally that’s still not abundantly clear to the studios, so what’s happening here is the formation of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), not to be confused with the Doctors for Excellence in Chiropractic Education ( Warner Bros. Entertainment, Fox Entertainment Group, NBC Universal, Sony, Paramount Pictures and Comcast Corp., together with Best Buy and Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Philips, Toshiba and Verisign.

“When we start to bundle these digital rights together, we believe we can actually develop and deliver a product to the consumer that’s better than free,” said Mitch Singer, chief technology officer at Sony Pictures and the lead architect of DECE, in the report.

Snarkiness aside, the goal here is actually more freedom than what Apple’s FairPlay DRM system offers, including unlimited personal copies and freedom to copy between devices, which is admirable. But there are three chief problems with DRM schemes: many of them just don’t work reliably (see: PlaysForSure, NapsterToGo, and countless others), many place unfair restrictions on honest consumers (see: virtually all of them, especially when listening to music you’ve already paid for on mobile devices), and the worst ones make customers feel like thieves (see: Spore). This new effort appears to address the second problem; let’s see what they do about the first and third ones.

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