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Studio Execs Mull Changing Face of Content Protection

6 Dec, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Mitch Singer, chief digital strategy officer for Sony Pictures Entertainment, isn’t suggesting studios not protect their product. He just wants the industry to look at the history of content protection as a guideline for the future.

When DVD’s content scrambling system (CSS) was first hacked in 1999, DVD still enjoyed years of amazing growth. For Blu-ray Disc, the industry worked in the idea of legitimate copying with the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) digital rights management (DRM). And now for UltraViolet, which allows for content access on nearly every device, the industry incorporated five different DRMs.

This evolution of DRM for home entertainment should be considered as the industry begins to take on a new home entertainment product: 4K content in the home. Dubbed Ultra HD, 4K requires resolution of at least 8 million active pixels (minimum 3,840x2,160).

“We’ll see where it takes us,” Singer said, speaking Dec. 6 at the Content Protection Summit. “We’re always striving to get ahead of the curve with higher standards of technology.”

With any DRM, studios need to face facts, Singer said on the Monday after a new Friday theatrical release, consumers can find that content online. The key for both theatrical and home entertainment security is to make security difficult enough to throw off most thieves, without hurting access for those who will pay for it. Call it a “speed bump” mentality, he said.

On the home entertainment side, the most promising new content security avenues are being found with hardware recognizing legitimate versus illegal content, according to Jackie Hayes, SVP and deputy general counsel of legal and business affairs for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Keep the keys to the doors, but make sure consumers don’t have a terrible time unlocking them.

“We want the consumer to consume content the way they want,” she said.

Just a few years ago, Warner would authorize maybe five downloads per electronic sellthrough purchase, Hayes said. Today, that’s considered too low. That expended consumer access needs to be understood when considering DRM, she said.

Bill Mandel, VP of technology and digital platforms for Universal Pictures, noted that for those who would be considered casual content thieves, a light barrier is often frustrating enough to make them seek legitimate avenues.

“Certainly you see a lot of frustration and you see people move on to something else,” he said.

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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