'Plug-and-Play' Is Based On 5C Protection Scheme

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The copy-protection features included in the "plug-and-play" agreement forged by the cable and consumer-electronics industries Dec. 19 employs encoding rules that were part of the so-called 5C agreement.

That "plug-and-play" arrangement, brokered between seven top cable MSOs and 14 television-set manufacturers, paves the way for TVs that don't require a cable set-top box to receive advanced cable TV services.

Along with those recommendations — pulled from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 and existing licenses for Digital Transmission of Content Protection technology — the cable and CE industries told the Federal Communications Commission that they'll adopt a patent license based on Dynamic Feedback Arrangement Scrambling Technique (DFAST) technology.

The DFAST technology would be used in the point of deployment (POD) interface inside TV sets, which will allow consumers to buy TVs from a retailer, then receive a POD-authorizing card from their cable provider to "unlock" for specific cable programming services offered by the local system.

Although the encoding recommendations are based on existing laws and license agreements, both the cable and CE industries told the FCC that encoding rules may have to be tweaked or updated to address new business models.

The 78-page plug-and-play document also offers details on several transition timetables that MSOs must follow. Effective July 1, 2005, MSOs that provision high-definition television set-tops must include the Digital Visual Interface and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' IEEE-1394 "fire wire" interface, both with copy protection.

By Dec. 31, 2003 — or within less than one year — if a consumer requests it, an MSO must replace any leased HDTV set-top that does not include a 1394 interface with a box that has one, or provide the software that would make such an interface functional. The agreement calls for operators to make the change for consumers at no cost.

The two groups also agreed to launch a "test suite" for the unidirectional digital-cable products that will begin on Jan. 31. Either CableLabs or a qualified third-party test facility will oversee the process.