Thursday, 07 January 2010 06:03

Disney pushing KeyChest DRM barrow

Disney is trying to interest the video industry in its KeyChest technology that promises a 'buy anywhere, play anywhere' model for DRM protected content.

News of Disney's KeyChest technology leaked out last year, but the company has now revealed its plans.

The idea is that the licence obtained by paying for a movie (or presumably some other content) in one format extends to other formats.

So a customer could 'purchase' a movie or TV show through an online service like Apple's iTunes or Amazon Video On Demand, and then be able to watch the same title from another participating distributor without having to pay for the content a second time.

In this way, a purchased movie isn't limited to a specific format or device, but could instead be watched on any device supported by any participating distributor.

So the movies you purchase online or on physical media - KeyChest reportedly accommodates Blu-ray discs and DVDs - could be also available on demand from your mobile phone or pay TV provider at no additional charge for the content itself.

In part, this can be seen as an extension of the 'digital copy' of some Blu-ray and DVD movies that can be played on compatible portable devices. The problem is that there's no guarantee the digital copy of any particular movie will use DRM that's compatible with your particular device.

But there's already competition for KeyChest - see page 2 .

One of the problems with previous DRM technologies is that if the provider shuts up shop or decides to switch to a different technology, purchased content can become inaccessible. If successful, the KeyChest model would mean consumers could turn to a different provider for continued access to their virtual libraries.

Disney's intention is to have a separate company operate the KeyChest system in order to encourage other studios to use the same technology.

KeyChest will compete with the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a consortium backed by most of the studios and consumer electronics companies with the notable exceptions of Disney and Apple.

Like KeyChest, DECE aims to allow people to watch the content they purchase on any device they own. So far, the consortium has agreed on a common file format and five different DRM technologies. It has also selected Neustar to operate the Digital Rights Locker infrastructure that will be the hub of the arrangements.

While negotiations between Disney and various players including content distributors, cable TV operators and telcos have been underway for months, the pace is expected to step up significantly and Disney officials have predicted the service will go live before the end of the year.

While there's no official word on the subject, there are rumours that Apple is working with Disney on KeyChest. Given the links between the companies, suggestions that Apple's supposedly forthcoming tablet device will be positioned as a multimedia device, rumours that Apple is planning some kind of subscription on-demand video service, and Apple's continuing disinclination to engage with DECE, those rumours seem plausible.

One of the complaints about Apple's iTunes Store has been the closed nature of the FairPlay DRM system, which the company has refused to licence to other players. While DRM-free music has been available from the iTunes Store for some time, FairPlay is still used to protect video content.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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