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CEA Approves DTV Interface, Copy Protection

ARLINGTON, VA. — Looking to pressure holdout movie producers, computer companies and broadcasters into accepting a standard that will speed the rollout of digital television (DTV), the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced that a majority of its TV manufacturer members have agreed to embrace a digital interface and copy protection system.

A majority of CEA TV manufacturer members plan to implement the IEEE 1394 digital interface and Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) system in digital video products, CEA said.

The DTCP (also known as “5C”) is an encryption and authentication technology developed for use with IEEE-1394 interface protocols. It is intended to protect from illicit duplication digital content relayed over a digital connection in a home network that interconnects such products as DVD players, DTV set-top boxes and digital recording devices.

“Broad endorsement of DTCP by digital television set manufacturers is an important step to help facilitate and speed the transition to digital television,” said Gary Shapiro, CEA president, in a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell. “We believe that a commonly accepted copy protection system will be a major factor in facilitating the rollout of digital television via cable and ensuring that content providers make high value content available to the cable industry.”

DTCP also is gaining momentum in Hollywood. Two major studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and Warner Brothers, already have agreed in principle with the 5C group to support DTCP and discussions with other studios are underway, CEA said.

To further support the digital transition, DTV manufacturers are developing new terminology and graphic descriptors that will assist consumers in selecting interoperable digital video products. CEA’s Video Division Board and its 1394 Interface Strategy Working Group are finalizing terms and logos that will allow a consumer to see a product at retail, note the descriptor and/or graphic, match that descriptor/graphic with another product and be assured that the products are designed to interoperate. The association said the baseline definition is expected to apply to products that utilize DTCP to secure encoded content over an IEEE 1394 serial connection.

CEA expects to announce the final terms and logos by July 2001.

A day before issuing the statement, CEA released the results of an in-house survey showing “entertainment features of home networks, such as distributed video and Internet audio, have grown nearly as popular with consumers as the safety and efficiency applications that have sustained the industry.”

CEA’s online survey of 1,100 adults ages 18-65 was conducted during March 2001 to gauge consumers’ awareness, attitudes and opinions toward the emerging applications of home networks.

The survey found that 53 percent of participants were somewhat to very interested in having the ability to listen to a single source of music from any room in the house. Fifty-eight percent expressed interest in watching a central video source — such as a DVD player in the living room — on televisions in other parts of the house and 36 percent were interested in video conferencing using televisions or computer monitors within the home.

Meanwhile, Shapiro sent another related letter to the FCC urging the commission to “take immediate action to create a retail market for cable devices.” The filing was made in response to the commission’s request for a report on the progress between the association and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association on compatibility among digital cable systems, digital televisions and other consumer electronics equipment.

“The six months since the last report on implementation of the Feb. 22, 2000, agreements have seen too-slow progress on the standards needed to ensure compatibility between digital cable systems and digital television receivers,” CEA said. “Even when the standards that are now being developed are completed, there will remain significant obstacles to achieving compatible operation of digital cable systems and digital television receivers and home recording equipment.”

Without commission intervention, CEA said, consumers will not see the benefits of both digital cable systems and advanced designs of digital A/V equipment.