DECE's UltraViolet DRM locker is ultra-useless

Jim O'NeillThere hasn't been much news about the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the industry group that has the backing of most major Hollywood studios, CE manufacturers and retailers, DRM vendors, Sony, Cox, Comcast and a number of other heavy hitters in the industry, of late.

The group, which has nearly five dozen members, was put together to make it easy--and make it secure--to give consumers keys to premium content they purchased so they can keep it in the cloud, but use it on a number of devices, TVs, PCs, and smartphones for example. DECE was formed, in part, to try and create a standard, industry-wide anti-piracy technology that would be compatible with any device.

This week, it rolled out UltraViolet, which it says will be an online digital rights management locker that will store the various rights consumers acquire for a piece of content.

Retailers, like Best Buy, or service providers like Comcast, will send info about a consumer's purchases or rentals to UltraViolet, which will then unlock the content to compatible--and authorized--devices that the consumer owns for downloading or streaming.

It's a dense system of rights management that many in the industry are depending on to end--or at least slow down--video piracy, while allowing the first steps to be taken toward a Hollywood-equivalent TV Everywhere landscape.

The problem--aside from the name which, really, is meaningless to consumers (and pretty much anyone in the industry)--is that the DECE has moved at a glacial pace and, unable to overcome its own inertia, has become a dinosaur even before it rolled out its first product.

At least one industry exec told me the DECE was doomed before it even started: In trying so hard to include all the players, it created a lumbering beast that was unable to make the decisions it needed to make quickly enough to move the project forward. The result? Companies have continued to cobble together their own DRM solutions or turned to third-party vendors to help them. Two of the biggest players in the sandbox, for example, Disney and Apple, are working on their own DRM solution called KeyChest.

There's no doubt DRM needs to be standardized, especially since consumers desperately want their content to be as portable and mobile as they are. And, as DVDs follow VHS tapes into the ranks of "Jeopardy" answers in the category "Antique Entertainment Media," it's increasingly likely we've seen the last generation--or near enough--of physical media.

The DECE, although it's announced UltraViolet, acknowledges that the digital-rights locker still has no firm timetable for rollout and hasn't finalized the technical specs. Members of the group say they expect the trials to begin this year. Good luck. -Jim