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Intel, others try to buck DRM stigma

No matter how much marketers try, there’s nothing sexy about digital rights management.

Once used as a tool to get consumers interested in new ways to digitally access entertainment, the software biz and chipmakers have all but given up on DRM after realizing those three letters were seen as having a negative connotation.

A year after Intel launched its Insider anti-piracy technology, the challenge of distinguishing itself from a polarizing predecessor, digital rights management, continues.

While Intel and digital lockers such as UltraViolet must assure distributors their content is safe, consumers would rather seek the assurance of a user-friendly experience — they want to be able to use the software rather than knowing how it protects the content they’re trying to access, tech firms have figured out.

Apple’s iTunes store used DRM to limit the number of devices on which a purchased file could be played. The online shop continues to use the technology for its digital rental service, limiting how long a video can be accessed. While DRM provided a certain level of protection for music files, it was criticized for affecting paying customers, who could only play files using specific software and on a specified number of devices.

Intel has been careful to distance Insider, designed to protect full 1080p high-definition digital movies, from DRM. Insider has been seen by some as a form of DRM, and this association brings with it potentially negative implications of inhibiting the user experience.

“I think when you draw a comparison to something like typical DRM, it takes on a connotation that can mean different things to different people,” said Chris Cukor, marketing director for Intel Insider. “When we talk about Insider to customers and when we talk about it to the public, it’s really an end-to-end content protection solution.”

Intel published a blog post addressing the subject on Jan. 4, 2011, soon after the announcement of the content protection feature. The post likened Insider to “an armored truck carrying the movie from the Internet to your display.” Visitors regularly commented on the post throughout the year until as recently as November, unfavorably likening the technology to DRM. The post was updated twice to clarify facts and rebut criticisms.

Although this could be seen as an issue of semantics, it has implications for both consumers and digital movie distributors. While many consumers want assurance of an uninhibited experience, those providing the content are focused on Insider’s effectiveness.

“Intel Insider creates additional content protection beyond the DRM to protect the video signal from delivery to the screen,” said Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. “This allows us to deliver our highest value content such as 1080p HD to less secure platforms like the PC.”

UltraViolet has also been careful to consider the perspective of users playing files on multiple devices. The UV file format allows consumers to register as many as 12 UV-supported devices and share with six individuals.

The aforementioned Intel blog post also noted that all chipmakers support High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), used by Blu-ray. Cukor explained HDCP as the technology that takes a “local file and displays it on a panel, either on your laptop panel or your monitor or TV set.”

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