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New DTV's on the horizon
Posted 17 April 2002 - 07:42 PM
Here is the article:
Posted on Wed, Apr. 17, 2002
6 TV makers, studios add copy protection
Six of the nation's leading television manufacturers have joined with major film studios to add copy protection features to digital television sets that would address Hollywood's concerns about piracy -- even as it potentially renders older digital TV sets obsolete.
Giant TV makers Sony, Thomson/RCA and Panasonic are developing a new digital interface -- or plug -- on the back of television sets that would scramble the video signal that travels from a set-top box to the TV, and prevent consumers from making digital copies. The first of these sets will begin appearing in stores next year.
The technology -- created with Sunnyvale chip designer Silicon Image, is designed to give Hollywood a secure means for distributing content to American homes. The initiative received warm endorsements from Universal and Fox studios -- and the nation's leading direct satellite broadcasters, Echostar and DirecTV.
But manufacturers acknowledge that the vast majority of the 2.5 million digital TV sets sold to consumers since the digital television revolution began in 1998 would be incompatible with this new standard.
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Posted 18 April 2002 - 11:30 PM
Posted 21 April 2002 - 11:18 PM
Piracy concerns may make older digital TV sets obsolete
NEW TECHNOLOGY ADDRESSES STUDIOS' INSISTENCE ON COPYRIGHT PROTECTION
By Dawn C. Chmielewski
Greg Brooks isn't the typical early adopter. He's pragmatic and when the family television died in 1999, he decided to splurge on a big-screen set capable of displaying vivid, cinematic movies in high definition.
``I bought it for the future opportunities,'' said Brooks.
The half-life of Brooks' 60-inch Sony TV just got cut radically short.
He is one of the 2 1/2 million people who spent upward of $4 billion on next-generation digital television sets over the past five years who may find their pricey displays practically worthless, as the consumer electronics industry attempts to address Hollywood's concerns about piracy.
The latest digital sets will feature copy protection that eliminates the consumer's ability to record pay-per-view movies, or restricts the number of copies they can make of shows broadcast in digital. These new technologies give studios the wherewithal to withhold its most valuable cinematic content from consumers watching on first-generation sets -- or require satellite and cable companies to cut the resolution in half through a technique called ``downresing.''
At issue is a perceived flaw in first-generation digital sets that's come to be known as the ``analog hole.'' Every digital TV set sold to consumers since the digital television revolution began in 1997 comes with component video inputs. These analog connectors allow video to flow, unencrypted, from a cable or satellite set-top box to the television monitor.
Therein lies the security breach.
Anyone can tap into this video source to make pristine copies of digital movies or TV shows that won't degrade with each reproduction. These perfect digital duplicates can be uploaded and distributed infinitely over the Internet.
A fear of Napster-like piracy makes major studios reluctant to deliver films to the home in high-definition television format. That has led to a dearth of the high-definition films and television programming that was to propel the digital TV revolution.
Walt Disney Chairman Michael Eisner lobbied Congress to plug the ``analog hole,'' and thwart global piracy on file-swapping services such as Morpheus and Kazaa.
``We have no problem with customers making a time-shifting copy of broadcast and cable programming in their own home,'' said Preston Padden, Disney's executive vice president of government relations. ``Our problem is when the brand new, $100-million movie shows up in a digitally perfect copy on file-sharing Web sites.''
The resulting Consumer Broadband and Digital TV Act of 2002, introduced in March by Sen. Ernest ``Fritz'' Hollings, D-S.C., would require copy protection be built into any chip-smart consumer device that touches a song, movie or other copyrighted work.
The threat of Congress mandating a copy control standard -- much as it did with VCRs -- spurred the consumer electronics and information technology industries into self-defensive action.
The resulting remedies may leave early digital TV adopters out in the snow.
Digital TVs just reaching the market -- including Sony's flat-screen Wega and models from RCA -- feature a new Digital Video Interface that makes it impractical -- and illegal -- to copy digital broadcasts of TV shows or movies. This new plug is designed to bridge the short, here-to-fore unencrypted distance a video signal travels between the set-top box and the digital monitor. It delivers such a torrent of uncompressed video that it can only be recorded on $100,000 high-bandwidth commercial recorders. And Intel, which provides the authentication and encryption, effectively ends home recording -- its licensing agreement prohibits putting DVI connectors on any device capable of recording, such as a TiVo or digital VCR.
``The consumer is losing out, because by adopting DVI as their digital connection, they are forfeiting any future right to record or network their home theater products,'' said Robert Perry, marketing vice president for Mitsubishi Consumer Electronics America, the nation's leading maker of projection TVs.
Mitsubishi has refused to add DVI or CDMI inputs to its big-screen TVs, instead adopting 1394-FireWire-iLink standard that has its roots in the computer networking industry. This video input incorporates another form of copy protection, the Digital Transmission Copy Protection protocol (known as 5C) from Intel, that allows for more flexible home-copying.
The next iteration of DVI technology, jointly developed by Intel and Sunnyvale chip maker Silicon Image, would extend copy protection to digital audio -- as well as video.
Silicon Image's initiative announced last week was warmly endorsed by Universal and 20th Century Fox studios -- and the nation's leading direct satellite broadcasters, Echostar and DirecTV, which are still starved for digital content.
``Hollywood loves it because it's damned hard to record unless you're sitting at a broadcast center. It's got HDCP, Intel's method of copy-protection, so even if you're able to hack it, record it and compress it, you've still got to deal with copy-protection,'' said Dave Arland, spokesman for Thomson Multimedia, maker of RCA-brand televisions.
The new digital encryption schemes finally give Echostar the technological ability to address Hollywood's file-swapping fixation: It can prevent copying of pay-per-view films, restrict the number of copies of popular shows, like ``Friends.'' It can remotely shut analog outputs to halt unauthorized copying. And it can even cut in half the resolution of high-definition programming delivered to first-generation HDTVs with analog inputs that lack encryption.
Echostar hopes its anti-piracy initiatives will give broadcasters and studios the confidence to augment the DishNetwork's high definition lineup, now limited to HBO and Showtime, CBS's prime-time lineup and six monthly pay-per-view movies.