There's a ZDNet post by Jason Perlow suggesting that the show has 3 years to live given that APPL doesn't participate and that MSFT has withdrawn starting next year. May be correct despite this year's apparent high energy and positive tone. It seems like a lot of "also rans" chasing market share of the remainder after Apple has gobbled up smartphones, tablets, etc.
The OLED TV screens (Samsung, LG) are superduper: vivid colors, very bright, very thin, very expensive although the prices will come down as manufacturing gets down the learning curve. Living room integration and home control integration have made incremental progress since last year, but no big "Ah Has". More floor space to digital health gizmos and applications. Auto / Entertainment integration continues incrementally in both the new car and aftermarket products. The distraction factor remains a concern.
There were all too numerous small companies trying to get design wins for their component products. Hope springs eternal, I guess. Then there were the also all too numerous companies displaing add-ons to Apple products with an interesting substantially fewer number doing Android phone and tablet add-ons.
Digital rights management, watermarking, and fingerprinting are alive and well in a broad range of content identification and content distribution and access value propositions. Civolution, Gracenote, and Motorola (Secure Media's HLS+) were among those showing explicit applications of various content protection and identification technologies. I saw incremental improvements and some new applications. Most of the DRM related capabilities were transparent to the user as they should be.
Although a bit off topic, the 3D printers from MakerBot and Cubify and the 3D printing service from Sculpteo were very interesting. Hard to tell whether this will be a "great idea" with limited markets or whether the vendors can do the right marketing to grow revenue sufficiently to sustain these companies.
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The lists of vendors and rights related organizations have been updated or corrected as necessary. I believe that they are now accurate.
Please let me know of further additions, deletions, corrections.
The incident, he said, highlighted the gap in understanding about rights in the digital world and the real world. "There's an enormous difference between buying a book and buying a tethered media device. And this incident really underscores that fact. Consumers carry with them analog expectations."
Von Lohmann said that it's not clear from the Kindle license agreement that Amazon has the right delete purchased content. "I don't see that many loopholes," he said.
And on Engadget, Amazon explains its logic:
Drew Herdener, Amazon.com's Director of Communications, pinged us directly with the following comment, and now things are starting to make a lot more sense. Seems as if the books were added initially by an outfit that didn't have the rights to the material.
These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books. When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers. We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances.
The Ministry of Truth to Records Department: George Orwell unperson; revise immediately. Doubleplusbad 1984 and Animal Farm down "memory hole."
This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.
But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price. [NYTimes here; Gizmodo here]
Macrovision, the analog copy-protection giant which shifted strategy last year by acquiring interactive program guide leader Gemstar-TV Guide for $2.8 billion, is now rebranding itself as "Rovi" to better reflect its new role as a digital delivery company.
The new name, which the company selected after months of industry and consumer research, comes from the middle four letters of "Macrovision." The company will now officially operate under the banner of Rovi Corporation. The new name will also serve as the company's stock symbol, ROVI, on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, and Rovi executives will celebrate the change in New York this morning by officially opening NASDAQ trading.
While home video entertainment spending declined 7% last quarter, according to Video Business, sales of Blu-ray DVDs were up over 100% and analysts forecast remain robust.
While the rollout of BD+ has taken longer than initially hoped, I think Paramount's agreement along with other MPAA trials which we recently began, bode well for the future.
So I believe our entertainment business will continue to be a little soft in the near term given market trends, I expect it will be a steady revenue contributor in the coming years as BD+ grows.
...Paramount Home Entertainment has agreed to license Macrovision’s content protection products, ACP and RipGuard. ACP and RipGuard provide protection against unauthorized copying of content across packaged media such as DVD as well as electronic channels such as the Internet, cable and DBS.
The license also grants Paramount the right to use Macrovision’s advanced Blu-ray protection technology, BD+. Along with the other technologies, Macrovision’s BD+ provides an additional content protection method for content released on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray format provides consumers with high definition video, a more interactive user experience via BD-Java, and exciting new features available in the most recent Blu-ray players with BD-Live.
Thus far, Fox is the only studio known to be using BD+. The relationship between Macrovision and the BD+ licensing authority, BD+ Technologies, LLC, remains opaque.
ByteShield, the San Francisco-based software and game DRM company, submitted comments in advance of the FTC's hearing on DRM and the consumer. Submitted by CEO Jan Samzelius, the document provides a terrific list of DRM features, functions, and capabilities that would probably delight game and software publishers and provide a user-friendly experience for gamers and software users.
Samzelius provides a list of what I would call "best practices" at each stage of the relationship between a gamer, the publisher, and the underly DRM system. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Tyler Pruitt points out that the AACS-LA interim licensing agreement expires on February 27th. AACS is one of the security standards used in Blu-ray discs and players (and in the now defunct HD-DVD format).
The thing that makes this important is the much lauded “Managed Copy” technology specifications are set to be finalized in the AACS Final Licensing Agreement. Managed Copy on Blu-ray will enable users to keep a HD quality copy of their movies on a central home server type device. This feature could be a killer app for the Windows Home Server market.
So will the market demand "Managed Copy"? Will the MPAA studios insistent on "Managed Copy"?
Macrovision held it's quarterly earnings call for analysts and investors on Tuesday. Here are a few selected excerpts from different parts of the transcript that deal with BD+ security for Blu-ray discs and players and the uptake of Blu-ray players in the marketplace.
In other category, while we expect to see fairly linear growth, we do expect the fourth quarter will be the strongest, assuming we are successful at broadening our licensing of BD Plus to the MPA studios. Adding it all up, we expect approximately 53% to 55% of our 2009 annual revenue coming in the second half, similar to our adjusted pro forma revenue weightings in 2007 and 2008....
In a comment, Dave Sprogis asks about what happens to iTunes tracks that people have already purchased now that Apple has dropped its FairPlay DRM? In addition to lots of freeware software for stripping out FairPlay DRM available on the Internet, Apple will remove it for a fee (says Tom's Hardware blog)
And what about current tracks that customers have already purchased? Yes, you can have DRM removed from them as well, but this too will cost you money. iTunes will offer the ability for its customers to upgrade their current library at a cost of 30 cents per song, for currently qualifying songs – 60 cents per qualifying video.
That being said, it is hard not to think that this could be a "snatch and grab" cash cow for bad times. The way the economy is right now, everyone is looking for fast money. iTunes has been extremely successful ever since its conception, so what sparked the DRM-Free movement? Obviously not to make customers more happy, because the numbers alone say that kind of movement isn’t really required at this point in time. But the economy says otherwise. Something to think about? Maybe.
Writing in Personal Computer World, Barry Fox has a useful article on the dilemmas facing both consumers, studios, and networks over protecting HD video from capture, copying, and redistribution. The studios would prefer that consumers use HDMI compliant connections, but there are extensive legacy devices that only accept analog inputs.
In addition, not all HD capable devices protect high value content:
In theory, the studios can foil devices such as the Hauppauge PVR by burying ‘Image Constraint’ or ‘Digital Only’ tokens in the HD signal. These force a compliant disc player or receiver to down-res analogue HD content to SD, or completely blank the analogue output.
The token systems are controlled by AACS, the shadowy body that provides the copy protection system used by Blu-ray. Although Blu-ray has been on sale for a couple of years, AACS has still not set a final standard and protection has already been hacked. I asked the Blu-ray Group whether ICT and Dot flags would be used to stop analogue copying by the sledgehammer method of crippling all analogue play. “No comment,” said a spokesman. “It’s a studio decision to set flags.”
Pretty good protection may not be good enough in the long run, especially as broadband speeds increase further. Verizon's FiOS' 20-20 symmetric service is a harbinger of things to come. While the video industry will continue to be well ahead of the music industry in content protection, failure to close all the holes may enable ongoing piracy and consumer file sharing.
Ars Technica reports that Adobe is opening up its Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP), its widely used streaming media protocol. At the same time, Adobe is taking legal steps to protect the DRM components used in conjunction with RTMP.
Apple has dropped the use of its FairPlay DRM that restricted the number of copies that could be made of music tracks while adopted variable pricing and giving pricing control back to the labels. This Variety article has a good summary of the situation.
Since the labels are throwing in the towel on DRM for music, it's not so surprising that the RIAA appears to be shifting its focus as well. After all, FairPlay DRM was pretty effective in protecting music obtained from iTunes. It now makes even less sense for the labels to pursue individual file sharers and colleges and universities since eliminating FairPlay DRM can be interpreted as encouraging file sharing, or at least not discouraging it.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the RIAA has dropped MediaSentry (Safenet), an application that finds and documents copyrighted music on consumer and student PCs. The information is then used as evidence in the RIAA-instigated lawsuits against individuals. Instead, the RIAA will use software or servies from Danish software provider DtecNet.
The RIAA announced last month that it planned to curtail its practice of filing mass lawsuits for copyright infringement. However, it still plans to closely monitor people it believes are illegally uploading copyrighted music, and continue with the legal action it already has in progress. It says it will still file lawsuits for exceptional cases.
In place of MediaSentry, the RIAA says it will use Copenhagen-based DtecNet Software ApS. The music industry had worked with DtecNet previously both in the U.S. and overseas, and liked its technology, said RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy.
Obviously, this apparent change in strategy and technology doesn't do anything to fix the record industry's broken business model.
Slashdot, Engadget, and others are reporting that there are now at least 16 Blu-ray titles that cannot be cracked by SlySoft because of updated / upgraded BD+ programming on the optical disc. The Engadget article also presents a useful BD+ architecture drawing.
As I've noted earlier, the BD+ VM-based programmable security technology can be adapted to particular attacks. I would not surprise me if the weakest implementation was put out there originally as a kind of "honey pot" to see the kinds of attacks pirates used. Having done that, it's not surprising that BD+ has been resealed. This "cat and mouse game" will go on indefinetely.
Paul Sweeting's article on ContentAgenda is worth a read. The royalty stack for Blu-ray and implementation issues, especially on laptops where battery life is critical, seem to have pushed Apple away from Blu-ray and toward iTunes High Def downloads.
Between the new intellectual property in the physical format, BD-Java, AACS and BD+, the royalty stack involved in Blu-ray presents a serious challenge to device makers, especially those whose core business is not making disc players....
Blu-ray is also not that easy to implement in a laptop. The drive itself requires more energy to operate than a DVD drive, draining battery power, and the extra processing involved in decrypting Blu-ray and running BD-Java eats up CPU cycles, which also drains power.
Since I last checked, four companies have been added to the list of adopters: Intel, Lite-On IT Corp., MIT Technology, and Quatius Ltd. have been added to the list of BD+ adopters. One company has apparently been deleted: Cheertek Inc.
Fox remains the only studio publicly listed as a content participant.
It's now well understood that DRM is being used to enforce business models by protecting content from being used without authorization or on unauthorized devices. Now Norway is being pressured by consumer advocates to force Apple to open their iTunes platform, so says the Romow Science and Technology Blog.
Open Market is a set of policy decisions and a software and services framework that will allow interoperability of various formats and DRM schemes that are currently splintering the market. That splintering locks users into a single store and format, and is putting a stranglehold on widespread adoption of movie sales online. Multiple sources have indicated that the studios are putting their weight behind the initiative to avoid the fate of the music industry and as a last ditch effort to stop or slow non-DRM movie sales.
The Coral Consortium, one previous attempt at addressing interoperability issues, seems to have stalled. It remains to be seen whether the Open Market initiative will be any more successful.
The Patent Prospector blog is reporting that patent assertion company Acacia has filed a patent infringement suit in plaintiff-friendly Eastern (federal) District of Texas. According to the report, defendants named in the suit include Samsung, Best Buy, Denon, Funai, LG, Matsushita, Panasonic, Phillips, Pioneer, and Sharp. Apparently missing is Sony. The blogicle notes that the suit is over copy protection technologies alleged to be incorporated in Blu-ray players.
Macrovision's quarterly earnings call was held last Thursday afternoon. In the Q/A following the standard presentation of results and management's comments, Sasa Zorovic, who covers Macrovision for Goldman Sachs, asked about BD+ security for Blu-ray.
[The ZDNet article takes] the opportunity to talk about Blu-ray and BD+ by stating it may slow down the physical portion of piracy but not the online portion. If history “repeats” itself I guess pirates will start downloading Blu-ray/HD DVD/CBHD rips and burn them to said discs. CBHD corporation is also giving people the ability to download and burn the discs themselves, they do this buying ordering the copy of the movie through a special “line” and burning the file to a CBHD.
The BD+ licensing authority publishes a list of supporters of the BD+ security technologies for Blu-ray DVDs. Two new names have been recently added to the list of adopters, OOO "RusHD", who seems not to have a presence on the Web, and Israel-based Zoran MicroElectronics, LTD. Fox remains the only company listed under "content participants" and "code developers."
AfterDawn has noticed a June 9th announcement on the site of the DVD Association regarding another layer of security for Blu-ray discs from German DRM firm X-PROTECT. Augmenting AACS renewable encryption and BD+ programmable security,
X-PROTECT blueTM is of no impact to the end- consumer and works on both HDMV and BD-J Blu-ray Discs. One of the key advantages is the high flexibility of the solution, as it can be easily and frequently updated to stop new piracy attacks in its tracks. It supports all Blu-ray profiles, as well all existing and future stand-alone Blu-ray players, PC players and Playstation 3, securing the quality of the material and compatibility.
Since it's unlikely that hardware manufacturers would agree to support a third party security layer if modifications to player firmware were required, it would seem that X-PROTECT blue is leveraging the player's Java interpreter to accomplish its goals. As of a few minutes ago, there is no mention of x-protect on either the Blu-ray or BD+ sites.
Liquid Machines (LM) is the last remaining important independent US-based Enterprise Rights Management (ERM) company. It's earlier independent competitors were acquired: SealedMedia by Stellant and, in turn, Oracle, and Authentica by EMC.
I recently spoke at length with Ed Gaudet, Liquid Machines' SVP Corporate Development and Marketing about Rights Management, ease of use, the competitive landscape, ERM and content management technologies, and related topics.
A time index to our conversation follows:
BetaNews reports that Sony Pictures and Divx have partnered to provide a movie downloading service.
DivX has a Digital Rights Management system that it claims can protect copyright holders, while not interfering with a viewer's ability to watch content. Viewers will be able to download Sony content's for devices other than just a PC, and DivX will partner with retailers to market Sony's content.
Something unique about DivX DRM is that content is tied to the user, rather than to the device, as is generally the case with other DRM technologies for protecting movies and music.
Allowing users to move content from device to device may solve one of the major irritations that have turned consumers against DRM.
Here's a roundup of various recent Enterprise and Mobile DRM stories:
Enterprise Rights Management software vendor Liquid Machines has announced adding Dr. Renato A. DiPentima to their Board of Direrectors and achieving Microsoft Gold Partner Certification. Earlier this year they closed a $10M Series D equity financing,
Oracle's latest release of their Information Rights Management product (nee SealedMedia) is now available. The product protects sensitive information contained in emails.
Of course, the secret to maintaining a de facto monopoly is to not push your customer base too far. Every industry segment has its breaking point, a fact Microsoft learned the hard way with Windows Vista. With Vista, they ignored IT, choosing to instead kowtow to big media and the DRM crowd. The result was an unprecedented backlash as angry IT shops spurned Vista and drove the Save XP campaign to international attention.
Perhaps Kennedy means that it's not DRM per se that's the problem, but Microsoft's failure to include in Vista goodies of interest to a preponderance of Enterprise IT shops.
Personally, I'd like to avoid Vista for as long as possible because XP works. I very seldom have problems that can be traced back to the OS rather than to apps. But I'm not running an Enterprise-scale environment either.
Just five large firms — market leader Microsoft, EMC, Oracle, and Adobe — and one smaller one, Liquid Machines, serve the world’s ERM demand. (EMC and Oracle entered the market by acquiring Authentica and Stellent respectively; Stellent had previously acquired a DRM company called SealedMedia.) Although ERM implementations are found in Asia and Europe, the bulk of demand and revenue come from the United States.
“ABI Research expects stable and robust ERM market growth,” says Aima. “The next few years probably represent the strongest growth potential, before ERM becomes commoditized.”More on ERM in the next couple of weeks.
Sam Gustin reports on Conde Naste's Portfolio.com site that Warner Music's head honcho Edgar Bronfman, Jr. has hired noted music industry exec Jim Griffin, formerly Geffen Music's digital chief, to lead Warner's drive to fix the music industry's business model. Griffin will reportedly focus on getting the ISPs to add an amount to their subscriber fees that would underwrite access to all music tracks. An organization would be created to return fees to labels and artists. Gustin says that Griffin has a three year contract.
It will be interesting to see whether all the interested parties are willing to participate and on what terms. The major and lessor known artists, major and independent labels, royalty collecting societies (such as ASCAP, BMI, and CISAC), concert promoters, venue operators, fan zines and web sites, etc. may have divergent economic interests. Griffin has a major cat herding effort in front of him.
According to this NYTimes article and other sources, Comcast has said that it will move to application neutral network management and disclose publicly its bandwidth management techniques. Tests by the Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (among others) showed that Comcast was disrupting P2P traffic with forged packets.
The company initially veiled its traffic-management system in secrecy, saying openness would allow users to circumvent it. But on Thursday, Werner said the company would ''publish'' the new technique and take into account feedback from the Internet community.
Comcast has been hampering the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol, which together with the eDonkey protocol, accounts for about a third of all Internet traffic, according to figures from Arbor Networks. The vast majority of that is illegal sharing of copyright-protected files, but file-sharing is also emerging as a low-cost way of distributing legal content -- in particular, video.
Watermarking vendor Digimarc has announced that it is selling its ID Systems business to L-1 Identity Solutions Inc. The sale leaves Digimarc free to focus its resources on its digital watermarking and licensing business.
“This relationship comes at a particularly opportune time for Digimarc, as we are experiencing an inflection point in adoption and revenue growth for digital watermarking,” said Davis [Bruce Davis, Digimarc Chairman and CEO]. “Our technology is beginning to permeate the full range of media content, from banknotes and secure credentials to television, movies, music, video games, digital images, advertisements, packaging, and industrial goods. This transaction represents a great step forward for our shareholders, employees, and customers. As we combine our ID Systems assets with global leader L-1 to form a more comprehensive offering responsive to our customers’ evolving needs, we are also redoubling our focus on the realization of our founding vision to making digital watermarking a standard feature in all media content. This is a very exciting moment in our history.”
Seems like a wise move.
As noted here yesterday, Slysoft claims that it's AnyDVD (HD) 22.214.171.124 software will remove the BD+ security component of Blu-ray HiDef optical discs. When asked for a comment, Eric Rodli, Macrovision's Executive Vice President & General Manager of Entertainment, had this to say via email:
“Macrovision does not comment on specific techniques or procedures that may directly impact the BD+ security technology. BD+ is a security response system designed to react to security attacks, not prevent them entirely. As part of this system, updated BD+ security code is continuously developed so that BD+ customers obtain ongoing value from the use of this technology.”
One of the major benefits of BD+ is that it is programmable security. Thus the cat and mouse game between those who apparently encourage piracy and the major studios and their technology partners remains intact.
SlySoft is again claiming that it's AnyDVD (HD) 126.96.36.199 software will remove the BD+ security component of Blu-ray. So far no comment from Sony, Macrovision who acquired the BD+ technology late last year from CRI, or the bdplusllc licensing authority. I've asked Macrovision to comment, but so far no response.
As I noted back in November, it's entirely possible that the strongest versions of BD+ have not yet been deployed in order to gather information regarding the kinds of attacks that can be successful. This "honey pot" strategy might be a useful defensive tactic against hackers / crackers / pirates.
In an apparent effort to focus in its core businesses, Macrovision has sold an approximately 10% stake in watermarking firm Digimarc to buyer thus far identified only as a Private Equity firm. Previously, Macrovision sold its Trymedia business to RealNetworks for $4M. Also in February, Thoma Cressey Bravo picked up Macrovision's business software unit for $200M.
Despite Blu-ray's triumph over HD DVD, it's far from clear that Blu-ray will become the sole--or even dominant--HD format around the world. Its high costs will remain a deterrent to consumers in many markets, some of whom will be open to lower-cost alternatives....
Causal games might be defined as games small enough to be downloaded and/or web based (e.g., one of my favs, Desktop Tower Defense). How does piracy affect the causal game business? Over on Gamasutra, Reflexive's director of marketing Russell Carroll has posted a great article asserting that 92% of one game, the full version of Ricochet Infinity, were found to be playing pirated copies. A staggering percentage.
One way to fight the search-engine facilitated piracy is to work to remove the ever-expanding number of links to illegal copies, but in many cases improving the Digital Rights Management (DRM) system to be more secure can be more effective as it renders a large number of those links obsolete. This is tricky to be sure, because improving the security must be done without making the DRM so onerous that it keeps honest customers from purchasing games.
One of the high level themes underlying today's FCC hearing on net neutrality is what's motivating Comcast to interfere with P2P traffic? Their answer is that they manage the use of a small number of users whose traffic my otherwise degrade the experience of the many more users who are not doing P2P.
Increasingly, P2P is being used to share or deliver video via the Internet. These video providers are increasingly competing with the Cable TV operators for audience, or in the vernacular, for eyeballs. This morning saw a demo and heard a presentation by Gilles BianRosa, CEO of Vuze which uses P2P to distribute video programming across the net.
Factoid mentioned this morning: more content is downloaded from YouTube than was distributed across the Internet in 2000.
Verizon offers, for example, 20 megabits per second in each direction on its FiOS network and doesn't discriminate against P2P applications largely because of important architectual differences between FiOS and cable-based broadband networks.
So, why does Comcast interfere with P2P traffic? One possible answer is that they are trying to delay competition with its base Cable TV business.