Intertrust welcomes HbbTV’s announcement of its selection of Sofia Digital as the provider of a reference application for demonstrating the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) in applications used in HbbTV ecosystems designed for the distribution of content using MPEG DASH with Common Encryption.

Having invented many of the core technologies that are used to build DRM systems, and having fielded a series of DRM products over the last 25 years, Intertrust is a veteran of the DRM market. Years ago, we realized that the core market requirement for all DRM adopters was interoperability, since no one wants to be locked into a sole proprietary format, owned by a private entity. We realized that there are two ways to achieve interoperability, and we have pursued both aggressively over the years – open standards and multi-format cloud services. Using a combination of both, content providers, service providers and network operators and device makers will be immune from the vagaries of proprietary technologies and will be able to field consumer friendly, future proof solutions.

In 2004, Intertrust recognized that there would always be multiple competing DRM systems for audiovisual content distribution solutions. In fact, we understood that such competition was especially critical for DRM systems to ensure the evolution of security, robustness, and usefulness to all participants in these systems. That year, we helped establish the Coral Consortium – an open standard for specifying an interoperability solution for DRMs. Film studios, device manufacturers, DRM providers and service providers joined Coral, and worked together to create a basic DRM interoperability technology and to start the discussions around common compliance and robustness rules and other key elements to providing true cross-DRM interoperability. The latter made it easy for service providers to support multiple DRMs in their offerings and keep consumers out of the cross fire of format wars. While Coral ultimately did not deploy, the ideas developed therein led to the establishment of Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), or Ultraviolet that extended the Coral solution and took the next important step of embracing the ISO Common Encryption standard.

At the same time that Coral was being created, Intertrust understood that an open standards based DRM was also needed that met the needs of device manufacturers and that provided a process by which participants in the standard could submit their own specific requirements and work to build a system that met them – something that is very difficult to do with competing proprietary DRM solutions. Together with Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony, Intertrust started an open standard DRM called Marlin. Together with the fundamental technology required Marlin pushed further to establish a set of compliance and robustness criteria and trust management processes to guarantee that all Marlin-based ecosystems could be interoperable subject to the independent business constructs and policies of the distribution solutions.

In large part because Marlin is an open standard that provides access to the standardization process to all Marlin community participants, it has been embraced by a number of other standards-based ecosystems as their only DRM solution. These include YouView in the UK, AcTVila in Japan, Tivùon in Italy, and the Open IPTV Forum (OIPF). Marlin is also the leading DRM for internet video distribution in mainland China. When standards-based ecosystems decide to choose a single technology as part of their standard, it is common for them to seek an open, standards-based version of that technology over proprietary solutions.

Standards work is a long, drawn out process that takes many years to gel in the market. Standards sometimes fail to stick as solutions, but often, as we saw with Coral and DECE, the ideas from one transition to the next. Through a process of successive refinement, new efforts draw strength from the experience of predecessors, making necessary adjustments. Ultimately, in the consumer space, open standards solutions prevail – they are pro-competitive, consumer-friendly and provide a higher standard of risk management for adopters. Also, standards-based products benefit from economies of scale and a rich set of suppliers bring down the cost of products and services.

Another case of successive refinement of the standards process is the merger of OIPF and HbbTV. OIPF chose Marlin as its sole DRM in 2008. Since the market evolved dramatically and when OIPF merged with HbbTV, the group explicitly chose not to specify one DRM solution but rather to facilitate understanding across the audiovisual content distribution industry of the issues associated with DRM in general and ultimately with DRM interoperability. The recent activity and announcement regarding Sofia Digital regarding the creation of a reference application is designed to facilitate understanding among HbbTV application providers of the technical issues associated with integrating DRM systems into content distribution ecosystems using MPEG DASH with Common Encryption. This is a crucial first step towards enabling a true DRM interoperability approach within such ecosystems.

To support HbbTV, Intertrust has provided access to our multi-DRM ExpressPlay service to Sofia Digital and HbbTV during the development and testing of the HbbTV reference application. ExpressPlay Service provides DRM tokens that can be used to generate DRM licenses for Adobe, FairPlay, Marlin, PlayReady, and Widevine DRMs. Intertrust will also provide its ExpressPlay Marlin client SDK to Sofia Digital during this process.

Intertrust wholeheartedly embraces HbbTV’s efforts to provide greater clarity about the use of DRM in HbbTV ecosystems and looks forward to working together to arrive at interoperability solutions across multiple DRMs and content protection technologies.