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HP, Philips Lock Up Broadcast Content

With the proliferation of file-sharing networks, protecting digital content has never been more challenging for copyright holders and regulators.

To stem the problem, the Federal Communications Commission recently drafted new "Broadcast Flag" rules to protect content from being intercepted between recording depots such as computers or TiVo to personal televisions.

Against this backdrop, Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday teamed with longtime partner Philips to announce a new digital rights management (DRM) technology to enable direct recording of "copy-once" content from digital broadcasts.

New discs from the companies' are expected to be used in future products that meet the FCC's content protection requirements, as well as current DVD players and DVD+R/+RW recorders. The technology can also be applied to other recording formats, the companies said.

The FCC's Broadcast Flag ruling proposes that broadcasters may include code called a "Broadcast Flag" in their transmissions to protect the content from being snatched as it travels from one appliance to another and rebroadcast over the Internet.

For example, digital TV content broadcast over the air will include a data tag, or broadcast flag. Any digital TV tuner built after July 2005 must not allow broadcast-flagged programs to be recorded in such a way that they can be redistributed in their high-definition format, where they might be shared with other consumers. This is the idea behind copy-once recording.

The technology, which includes high-bandwidth DRM technology from chipmaking giant Intel , has been submitted in the first round of filings to the FCC in order to be among the first technologies approved for the recording of content marked with the Broadcast Flag.

Both HP and Philips, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, are looking to be early movers in a space that is expected to be lucrative. For example, for all of the flack Microsoft takes over security affronts to its software, the company's DRM technology is very popular and ubiquitous in Windows Media software.

Analysts have said that millions of dollars can be made from licensing fees related to DRM.

In related news, HP has joined the Content Management Licensing Authority (CMLA) as a founding contributor to support adoption of mobile handsets and other devices that deploy Open Mobile Alliance's Digital Rights Management (DRM) version 2.0 specification.