JUST ABOUT A YEAR AGO, WORD EMERGED OF A WAY
to buy and play movies electronically — but
as effortlessly as we do DVDs, and before
them, VCR tapes. Buy it, put it in the machine,
The reason it’s simple to play a videotape
in any VCR or any DVD in any DVD player
— no matter what — is that the war about
how it works happened ahead of time, and
ended in standards. Beta vs. VHS; HD-DVD
vs. Blu-ray. In each case, one way of displaying
copyright-protected video titles became the way.
Standards didn’t happen in the digital marketplace for
video. No standards means no effortless way for consumers
to buy digital video. It means fragmentation, which creates
confusion, which smites the digital video marketplace.
Think about it: You or your family might have accounts
with iTunes, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and maybe an Amazon locker
for the DVDs you bought there. It’s a lot of logins to remember,
just to get at a video you bought.
Fast forward to last July, when a consortium emerged,
seeking to fix the problem: the Digital Entertainment Content
Ecosystem (DECE). In it are the majors in retailers
(electronic and tactile), movie studios (all but Disney still),
gadget makers (all but Apple) and service providers (cable,
Their answer is the consumer-facing brand that is Ultra-
Violet. The first major phase of it came out this month.
What’s in it: A digital rights locker, protected by five flavors
of DRM (digital rights management). Also: More than
75 APIs (application program interfaces) for use to develop
video storefronts, and to handle interoperability between
the DRMs. It’s all managed by Neustar.
Let’s start with the digital rights locker itself. It’s nothing
like Davey Jones’ locker, or anything big and heavy with a
brass padlock. (Sigh.) It’s a room full of specialized servers
somewhere in Virginia. It’s a cloud, in that sense, where
Neustar manages rights and licenses. It doesn’t hold content.
The digital rights locker — called The Coordinator, in
DECE-speak — is SAML-based. “SAML” stands for Security
Assertion Markup Language, and is the login part: Are
you who you say you are? (Prove it.) Are you authorized
and is your credit good? If you login to your bank, it’s likely
that SAML is behind it. People tend to say it as a word —
rhymes with trammel.
As Neustar opens the doors of its digital locker, it’s the
five DRMs that are the big deal, technologically. Until now,
there’s been no “DRMs ’R’ Us” way to accommodate the
different choices already playing out in the marketplace.
The APIs, released by Neustar to UltraViolet and its
70-plus member constituents on June 27, are aimed at a
major blemish of open standards: stifled innovation. If everyone
uses the same ingredients and recipe, how do they
That’s why there are about 80, at launch, so as to satisfy
the initial needs of the DECE ecosystem.
Watch next for that gray-and-purple UVVU logo to enter
your digital world. Also, more licenses and specs. Ultimately,
it’s one login, for all your digital stuff, to use whenever
and wherever you are.
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