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Mobile TV digital rights management — avoiding the music industry's mistakes

When you buy a CD, you're free to play that recording at your house or in your car, on a PC or a CD player, or copy songs to your iPod; in other words, wherever you want.

As we know, life isn't so simple in the brave new world of digital content. Many early iPod users discovered the problem when they lost or replaced their iPods or wanted to play their music on another device; they had to buy songs all over again.

This approach has undeniable appeal for content owners and retailers. But what's equally undeniable is that device-content lock-in is a drag on the growth of digital entertainment.

Understandably, content owners want to protect their investments and copyrights from pirating. But the resulting hodge-podge of incompatible formats, and copyright, permission, subscription and licensing requirements has done perhaps as much as Napster in reducing the music industry to its current dismal predicament.

San Diego-based Verimatrix aims to avoid a repeat of history with its three-screen digital rights management solutions for TV.

"Our operators are in an increasingly competitive space — cable, satellite, IPTV," said Steve Christian, Verimatrix VP of marketing. "We think an axis that can make them successful is a three-screen solution: set-top boxes for IPTV, the PC screen and now mobile phones."

Security and digital rights are key to deploying the three-screen strategy. "Content protection is important, because it enables the business of pay TV," Christian said. "Unless you have content protection, you can't offer consumers choices."

The Verimatrix approach is simple: Unify user rights in a common backend to provide transparent interoperability among systems and devices — essentially “multirights." Because the system is implemented in software, there are no smartcards or other interface hardware, and it can be easily extended to new devices.

"It's important to enable a seamless approach across as broad a platform as possible [so] it 'just works,'" Christian said. "If you can achieve a seamless experience across screens, you've achieved something customers want."