Monthly Archives: February 2011

Ultraviolet – who is responsible?

A year after launch the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) has unveiled initial technical specifications – now branded ‘Ultraviolet’.

Ultraviolet’s major backers are the Hollywood studios, who hope to fight piracy by enabling users to legitimately access content on multiple devices. Ultraviolet’s membership list now encompasses 62 companies including high-profile UK players such as BSkyB, BT, Filmflex, Lovefilm, NDS, and Red Bee Media.

The Ultraviolet technology is based on the use of a common file format for digital content distribution controlled by a cloud-based authentication and account management hub using multiple content protection technologies. It will become available in the UK and Canada later this year (2011).

However, the creation of interoperable systems such as these is challenging from a security stand-point. In a traditional, vertically-integrated pay-TV set-up, the players in the chain each assume well-defined responsibilities and liabilities: in general, the operator is held responsible by the rights-holder for end-to-end security, the security vendor held responsible by the operator for any security breaches, and the CPE vendor held responsible by the security vendor for the robustness of its hardware.

This system works because of the tight control exercised by the operator over the platform and the fact that there exist only a limited number of implementations to test and maintain. But in a horizontal retail market with multiple devices and DRMs the model is more complicated: the chain of responsibility actually becomes a set of discrete responsibilities, with no clear stakeholder for the end-to-end platform security.

Being able to buy a movie once and watch it on any Ultraviolet device anytime, anywhere, will certainly be an attractive value proposition to consumers – but Ultraviolet implementation faces significant technical hurdles, including the content security risk, which should not be underestimated.

To find out more about Farncombe’s content security expertise, please contact Lara Lerville at Farncombe’s Paris office.