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Rovi brings security to DivX streams

September 1, 2011 | 12:01 am

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Rovi unveils DivX Plus Streaming 
Online movie rental sites have long been handicapped by the poor portability of their movie files in comparison to DVDs. Those files could play only on certain devices, or they couldn't be burned onto discs, or the discs weren't compatible with many DVD players. The restrictions stemmed from the limits of the digital rights management technology that Hollywood insists the sites use to deter piracy.

DRM has been steadily improving, however, evolving from an electronic glue binding a file to a computer or a disc into more of an electronic fence that allows files to be shared by a limited number of devices. The latest example of this evolution is the DivX Plus Streaming technology that Rovi Corp. announced Thursday at a trade show in Berlin.

The previous version of DivX's DRM allowed consumers to store downloadable movies onto a flash drive or a disc and play them on DivX-certified devices. (In the case of rented movies, the files would play only until the rental expired.) This was a sneakerware approach to portability -- if you wanted to shift a movie from a computer to a TV set, you burned it onto a disc and walked it over to your living room.

The new version is designed to let cloud-based movie services, such as BestBuy's CinemaNow and other sites powered by the Rovi Entertainment Store, stream movies securely to any compatible DivX device. It also will enable consumers to start watching a rented movie on one device, hit the pause button, then resume on another compatible device from the point where they left off, seamlessly and automatically.

Other content-protection companies, such as Google's Widevine subsidiary, offer some similar capabilities to service providers, so Rovi is playing catch-up to a degree. And not every Hollywood studio allows its movies to be distributed in the DivX format. Rovi executives insist, however, that they've leapfrogged the competition with some features, including the near-Blu-Ray-quality images and the ability to support multiple alternate-language soundtracks and subtitles in the same stream.

Rovi announced just the availability of the technology on Thursday, not its integration into any specific products or services. But Richard Bulwinkle, the company's chief evangelist, said consumers will be able to add streaming technology to many DivX-compatible devices already in homes through a firmware update.

-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him @jcahealey

Credit: Rovi Corp.

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