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August 13, 2010

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Non-proprietary DRM Standards Unlock Market, Helps Assure Consumer Confidence

DECE recently launched the consumer brand Ultraviolet as the next step in its mission to eliminate digital media distribution silos - and make rights management for media transparent to consumers, with freedom to use and transfer purchases across devices. There are many industry pundits that are skeptical of this initiative – for all the reasons people are skeptical of any industry consortium. Not all the major players are supporting it (Disney, Apple); there are too many players involved to make any significant progress; who is pushing their own agenda above the benefit of the group; will it actually work. One decision the DECE has made, which we feel is critical to the success of Ultraviolet, is the DRM schemes it has chosen to support. To be sure, there are three proprietary DRM technologies on the list – Microsoft’s PlayReady, Adobe Access, and Widevine’s unnamed offering. But they’ve also approved Marlin and OMA as open, non-proprietary DRM standards. It’s easy to see the advantages of a multi-vendor DRM scheme, especially as we stand knee-deep in the TV Everywhere hype. Although detractors point to the pressing need for accountability and responsiveness in a market that is highly dynamic to say the least, we feel such open DRM standards can go a long way to help enable the type of consumer choice that all digital TV operators are aiming for. In fact, we see the decision to support multiple standards closely mirrors our MultiRights approach. In short, MultiRights mediates different DRM technologies on multiple devices through a single set of subscriber entitlements interfaces and Web services APIs. Our strong support of the Marlin standard as a key component of this architecture is one key proof-of-concept for our MultiRights approach. Case in point, although Project Canvas announced it will also support multiple DRM schemes, it has strategically decided to launch with only Marlin. According to an article by Philip Hunter in Videonet, “The DRM was the most important and contentious technology choice facing Canvas, having to meet conflicting objectives. On the one hand, it has to satisfy the BBC Trust’s stipulations for openness and universal access, and on the other make the Internet sufficiently secure to deliver high value premium content from movie studios and others." It is Marlin’s support for open standards, flexibility and market acceptance that pushed it to the top of Project Canvas’ list. What are your thoughts? Has Verimatrix chosen to support the most promising technology in the Ultraviolet boat or are proprietary DRM schemes likely to leave these new promising initiatives stranded in port?

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