LAS VEGAS Philips is leading the charge to start yet another industry initiative to tackle digital rights management, this time focusing on the wirelessly networked home, EE Times has learned.
At stake here, said Leon Husson, executive vice president of consumer businesses at Philips Semiconductors, is the "free-floating" copyrighted content that will soon be "redistributed" or "rebroadcast" to different TV sets throughout a home by consumers using wireless networking technologies like IEEE802.11.
Rather than wait for Hollywood studios to raise a red flag over unprotected wirelessly transmitted content, some technology companies want to tackle the issue in advance and develop solutions together with content owners.
"We are dying to lobby Hollywood studios on this issue," Husson said in an interview here. Philips Semiconductors has been discussing the issue with companies like Sony and Samsung, he said, and expected to have "high-level meetings with Thomson Multimedia" this week. Philips has also had a preliminary, "very interesting conversation" with Cisco Systems Inc., he added. The goal of the Philips-led emerging industry initiative is to come up with "the first concrete proposal" that can be taken to Hollywood soon.
One existing specification, called Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP), defines a cryptographic protocol for safeguarding audio/video entertainment content against illegal copying, intercepting and tampering as it traverses high-performance digital buses, such as the IEEE1394 standard. But when DTCP was developed by 5C a group comprising Intel Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Sony Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. "the notion for the wireless-connected home was not there," said Husson. Other approaches to content protection don't necessarily ignore wireless transmission, but Philips is actively focusing on that transmission approach, he added.
Now that many consumer electronics companies are beginning to see wireless home networking as the wave of the future, developing a possible solution for copy protection and digital rights management over the wirelessly connected home has gained "a sense of urgency," Husson said.
Trying to apply the DTCP which requires high-speed encryption and decryption at every digital interface over a wireless network is not easy, said Husson. It could not only slow down the wireless transmission, but also tax the computing power locally available in digital consumer appliances.
A number of consumer electronics and Internet technology companies have diverging ideas on how to implement digital rights management (DRM) in digital consumer appliances.
For its part, Cisco released last fall Open Conditional Content Access Management (Occam), an end-to-end content encryption and access control technology specification, designed for implementation in hardware for interactive television and portable network devices. The technology incorporates a key management facility that uses the 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard and 1,024-bit public-key encryption.
While Cisco hopes to get network service providers and device manufacturers to use its DRM protocol and key management, some consumer companies, including Philips, don't believe the proposal meets the industry's needs. In the Occam proposal, Husson said, "Cisco wants each digital device within the home to have a separate IP Internet Protocol address. That means if you have 20 connected consumer devices at home, you'd have to deal with 20 different IPs." That may be a good scheme for Cisco, which wants to play a pivotal role in promoting its Internet routers, but it won't make life any easier for the consumer electronics manufacturer, Husson said.
If Cisco's proposal sits at one extreme among various DRM schemes, Thomson Multimedia's proposed SmartRight copy protection and content management system may sit at the opposite end. Thomson Multimedia and Micronas this week demonstrated smart card-based SmartRight technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Olivier Lafaye, general manager of advanced projects, content protection and rights management in Thomson Multimedia's research arm, said that unlike 5C's DTCP, which protects only "the link" between digital devices, the SmartRight system provides "end-to-end copy protection" for content entering a SmartRight-enabled home network. And while DTCP requires re-encryption at every digital device border, SmartRight keeps content encrypted from the time it reaches a digital set-top at home until it is rendered, he said.
The SmartRight technology will honor a local "entitlement control message" such digital rights management rules as copy never or copy once, for example originally attached to the content. By putting the SmartRight technology in place, which enforces rights management in the home, said Lafaye, "we can help content owners create a new business revenue model." Content owners, for example, can start charging consumers every time their digital content is re-distributed within the home, or viewed several times during a certain number of days specified by them.
Reinhard Steffens, senior marketing manager at Micronas and co-chairman for the copy protection technology group of Europe-based Digital Video Broadcast (DVB), said that because SmartRight uses smart card-based removable security modules, it can provide a more-secure and cost-effective renewable solution if the copy protection scheme is hacked.
Steffens said 23 proposals have been submitted in response to a call from DVB. "We hope to come to a consensus and come up with a preliminary working standard by the end of 2002," he said.
But Philips doesn't see SmartRight as the way to go. "If the Occam requires the home network to deal with 20 IPs, for instance, the SmartRight is designed to handle just one node at home," said Husson. Leveraging the technical expertise accumulated by Philips Research, he said, "we hope to create a middle-ground DRM solution that sits between Occam and SmartRight."
The proposal Philips wants to hammer out with Sony, Samsung, Cisco and possibly with Thomson Multimedia will focus on the rights-management issues for wireless home networking, said Husson. Further, the group does not regard the DVB as the right forum to push their proposal. Husson said lobbying efforts must start with major content owners.
While declining to assign a specific time frame to the discussions with Hollywood, Husson was confident that the industry initiative Philips hopes to launch could soon result in putting a concrete proposal on the table. "There is a high-level awareness among consumer electronics companies that this rights management over wireless home networking needs to be resolved quickly."