Digital rights management will come to Freeview early next year, when the terrestrial network and high-definition digital television service make their appearance, says Freeview’s chief executive, Steve Browning.
Terrestrial Freeview will pass a signal to the digital television and to any high-definition recording device, through an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connection, whose protocol incorporates HDCP (high-definition content protection). This will prevent onward transmission of material, while still allowing customers to record it for their own private use on a suitable digital personal video recorder (PVR), says Browning.
The owner’s PVR will be a “trusted” destination for such material, but content protection will prevent it being recorded on any “untrusted” device. However, Browning says Freeview has not yet checked and specified any PVRs as suitable for use with the service.
With the present satellite model, which features only “standard definition” pictures, there is no such content protection. Freeview has decided it’s not worth fighting the battle over standard-definition digital images. “[But] we’re putting a stake in the ground [with high-definition material],” says Browning.
For those viewers using older recording technology, there will be an alternative that will “downshift” content to standard resolution.
HDCP has been the subject of much controversy in countries that have had digital television for some time, particularly the US, where the Federal Communications Commission mandated that every high-definition television and recorder made after July 1, 2005, be made sensitive to HDCP.
Commercial pirates will simply continue to use older equipment, says digital rights organisation the Electronic Frontier Foundation. At the same time, the possibility remains open that further controls could be installed into HDCP to limit even more tightly what users do with recorded content.