HBO: Stop Calling It 'DRM'

A report in Broadcasting & Cable yesterday quoted Bob Zitter, Chief Technology Officer for HBO, speaking at a cable broadcaster's conference in Las Vegas last Tuesday, as suggesting that customers might accept the concept of digital rights management if it were named something else.

Zitter suggested, according to the report, that the technology should be marketed in such a way that it conveys a message that viewers could "use content in ways they haven't before." For that reason, he is suggesting the term "Digital Consumer Enablement."

Such a term might be used to describe controls placed on HBO high-definition digital content, which could be rolled out later this year. HBO's flavor of DCE, some believe, may not be compatible with control mechanisms built into the current round of digital television sets.

Which leads Freedom to Tinker blogger and Princeton University professor and engineer Ed Felten -- a frequent partner of Microsoft security engineer Mark Russinovich -- to post the following comment:

"So what HBO wants is to disable the analog outputs on the set-top box, so consumers have no choice but to adopt HBO's favored DRM. Which makes the nature of the 'enablement' clear. By enabling your set-top box to be incompatible with your TV, HBO will enable you to buy an expensive new TV. I understand why HBO might want this. But they ought to be honest and admit what they are doing."

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