FCC Approves Copy Protection Technology

The FCC has approved 13 new copy protection technologies that comply with the commission's 2003 broadcast flag decision.

The most controversial approval involved TiVo's proposed technology that would allow its PVR users to share copies of digital programming over the Internet; a plan vigorously opposed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the NFL, who fear that the technology will lead to uncontrolled rampant distribution of digital files. The technology, called "TiVoToGo" allows digital files copied on a TiVo device to be distributed to nine "registered" users and is expected to be introduced on TiVo boxes later this year.

TiVo denies the "mass indiscriminate redistribution" charge, saying it "has always tried to maintain an appropriate balance between consumer interests and the rights of content providers."

Also approved by the commission was the so-called "5C" DTCP (Digital Transmission Content Protection) copy protection technology, backed by Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Intel and Hitachi.

Other "flag-compliant technologies approved include:

* MagicGate Type-R for Secure Video Recording for Hi-MD hardware and software and Memory Stick PRO software and hardware (Sony)
* SmartRight (Thomson, et al)
* Vidi Recordable DVD Protection System (Philips Electronics North America and Hewlett-Packard)
* Content Protection recordable Media for Video Content (4C Entity, LLC)
* High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (Digital Content Protection, LLC)
* Helix DRM Trusted Recorder (RealNetworks, Inc.)
* Windows Media Digital Rights Management (Microsoft)

Commissioner Kevin Martin raised several "red flags" over the proposed technologies, expressing concern that DTCP's "non-assert" clause that forces companies using the technology to give up intellectual property rights they have in DTCP would "hinder competition and suppress innovation." Martin also questioned whether TiVo's plan includes "sufficient constraints" to discourage widespread distribution of digital programs.