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Motion picture studios team up against iTunes

Fearful that Apple will gain control of downloadable video, as it has with music, a coalition of motion picture and television studios are planning to fight back with a new copy protection system called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE).

The technology is a form of digital rights management that would allow the use of copy-protected movies and TV to work with various online music stories and multiple brands of playback devices.

The coalition includes Sony, FOX, NBC Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate. Microsoft, VeriSign, Alcatel-Lucent and Best Buy are also members, as are hardware makers such as Cisco, HP, Philips and Toshiba.

The idea is to keep content locked down, but have it play on any device owned by the user. Sony claims that under the system customers won’t face shifting copy limits if they choose to switch stores.

Using DECE, a shopper would have the option to make unlimited copies, including the DVD burns that have regularly been off-limits at current online providers. Under the strictest conditions, a user could still have access to a “locker,” which recalls the customer’s rights to play certain videos and stream content without any permanent copy involved.

Apple’s iTunes was cited as an example of “the problem” by the coalition. By allowing proprietary stores like iTunes to exist, the music industry has effectively left the dominant format in Apple’s control.

Adopting DECE as a standard, the companies hope, would prevent this from happening to video by divorcing control from the individual stores and making the rights the service offered to the end user.

A more detailed strategy for DECE will be revealed during the Consumer Electronics Show in January.