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Liberty Eyes Digital TV Security

Emboldened by consumers' desire for more control over broadcast programming, the Liberty Alliance Project on Wednesday agreed to work with the TV-Anytime Forum to hash out digital identity requirements for the digital video recorder (DVR) market.

Liberty, a consortium of companies working to preserve the identity of Internet service users, hopes the initiative with DVR standards body TV-Anytime will pave the way for new markets and lower costs for content holders, broadcasters, advertisers and equipment providers.

Liberty will look to apply its Federated Identity Architecture to privacy, security and interoperability requirements in TV-Anytime's upcoming Phase 2 specifications, which address how games, enhanced TV, graphics, music files are transferred and stored in home networks.

While DVRs, such as the popular TiVO service have produced more choice and convenience for consumers, who can record, store and playback live TV, it has created a number of technical challenges for broadcasters and manufacturers, the groups said in a statement.

"For example, the lack of a universal format means delivering content across various types of DVRs has become an expensive proposition," the companies said. "In addition, DVRs' limited ability to network with other devices makes it difficult for consumers to fully realize the benefits inherent in the technology."

TV-Anytime needs Liberty's help to secure the management of content within compliant devices, including DVRs, as well as ensure the privacy and security of data associated with user identity and interaction.

Launched by Sun Microsystems, AOL and American Express in 2001, the Liberty project has been since viewed as a standards group whose goal is to provide open single sign-on services as an alternative to proprietary software from Microsoft or other companies looking to grasp the federated identity space.

Originally, Liberty was seen merely as a group that would enable Web services on PCs and mobile computing devices and an alternative to work being done in the IBM/Microsoft-led Web Services Interoperability organization.

But by partnering with TV-Anytime, Liberty seems assured of breaking free from the perception that it caters strictly to the enterprise, and is simply interested developing an open standard for network identity that supports all network devices -- including DVRs.

The timing seems ripe. Industry experts have said they see a convergence of digital television, Internet and communication technologies creating an overabundance of programs and personalization options from which the average consumer can choose.

This has caused the popularity of DVRs to skyrocket. Market research firm IDC said worldwide DVR shipments reached over 4 million in 2003, fueled by strong demand in the United States and Japan.

Moreover, the firm said shipments could increase at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 50 percent over the next five years, reaching over 28 million global shipments by 2008.

The proliferation has turned to a potential cash cow for some companies eager to capitalize. For example, Time Warner Cable, and Direct TV have built the DVR capabilities into their cable and satellite boxes.

And as the convergence of TV, Internet and communications continues to tighten in consumers' homes, it's not a stretch to think consumer-minded companies like Microsoft, Dell or Gateway might come knocking in search of ways to sink their teeth into the DVR technology and service pie.

In the meantime, Liberty Alliance and TV-Anytime said they will forge business use cases and address technical issues for scenarios such as permission-based sharing of viewer information, television commerce, compliant advertising distribution, and peer-to-peer transfer of personal content.