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Digital Hollywood Mulls Changing Content Rights

Accenture and others are pushing digital rights management software that would identify the consumer rather than the device, so people can pay once and put the content on as many devices as they wish.

Consulting firm Accenture LLC is working to develop a cross-platform digital rights business model that would allow consumers to access the content through an unlimited number of devices after paying for license rights once.

A maturing industry continues to push the change, an Accenture executive at the Digital Hollywood conference in Santa Monica, Calif., told TechWeb on Wednesday. "If these companies don’t make the decision in a timely fashion to adopt this model the consumer will make the decision for them," said Richard B. Le Vine, Accenture senior manager of global architecture and core technologies.

Software would identify the consumer rather than the device. Telecommunication companies, cable operators and wireless companies would sort out the billing behind the scenes.

Content providers that stream movies into the home, for example, from online or through cable identify "the box" as the valid network device. A consumer can't finish watching the $6 movie in their bedroom that they began to watch in their living room the night prior because the content provider non-repudiates the box rather than the person.

Companies are pouring "hundred of millions" into various projects to initiate change, Le Vine estimates. And change already is underway.

Telecommunication, satellite, movie studios, and content providers have put together an architectural blueprint that describes the required equipment and processes.

Companies have been selected to build software, servers, storage, content management, network infrastructure, authentication digital rights management and conditional access platforms. "There are billions to be made," Le Vine said. "Companies that embrace this disruption will succeed and capture mindshare. Some are marching down the path."

Sling Media Inc. offers Slingbox, a device that allows consumers to access their local television content from any location their PC or mobile phone. Widespread deployment of this type of technology could arrive within two years, Le Vine estimates.

"Many of today's pirates wear $100 jeans and carry $3,000 laptops and never run out of the restaurant without paying a bill," he said. "So they aren't really looking to break piracy rules, they are just rebelling against the business model because it's broken."

In a separate panel discussion on rights-holder options, Le Vine said the model has met with resistance because it excludes many companies, such as those that want to sell portable music services. "I may have music at home," he said. "I've paid for the right. It's in my earphones and I'm not sharing it with anyone else."

Fred Davis, founder at Davis, Shapiro, Lewit, Montone & Hayes, moderated the panel. Participants included Steve Manning, director of broadband content at VeriSign; Jason Johnson, director of licensing and business development at Via Licensing, a Dolby co.; Ian Ballon, shareholder at Greenberg Traurig; Christopher Amenita, senior vice president, enterprises group, ASCAP; and Neil Edwards, chief executive officer at .mobi.

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