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Jon Healey on Hollywood's love-hate relationship with technology.

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Home networks get a boost

August 24, 2007 |  6:18 pm

Dtcpdtla_logo I noted a few months ago that a group of tech and consumer-electronics companies had complained to the FCC that the cable industry was stonewalling a technology that the CE industry had embraced for home networking and was already building into its products. They shelved that complaint this week, though, and the cable operators agreed to support the disputed technology, DTCP-IP.

The deal hastens the day that consumers are able to transfer cable programs over Ethernet or Wi-Fi networks. DTCP-IP is an anti-piracy technique that guards against unauthorized copying and preserves usage restrictions as data travels from one device to another (say, from a cable set-top box to a DVR, or from a DVR in one room to an HDTV in another). It's already been adopted by the Digital Living Network Alliance, a group drawing up home-networking specifications to promote compatibility among different manufacturers' products. That kind of security is critical to persuading Hollywood to embrace home networking and let consumer gear transmit movies from room to room. Not surprisingly, the three major Hollywood studios that have signed on as DTCP-IP licensees are the ones most willing to support new distribution technologies: Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and Disney.

Cable operators persuaded the licensing agency behind DTCP-IP to give them a say over changes in the technology that could affect the level of security it provides. According to Multichannel News, Hollywood studios also won assurances that cable operators would send and DTCP-IP compliant devices would respond to a particular type of anti-piracy message embedded in programming. Such System Renewability Messages, which can revoke a specified device or devices' ability to receive programs, could be used to prevent movies from reaching a DVR or storage unit whose anti-piracy controls had been hacked.

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