Disney Keychest to fling DVDs into the clouds

Until now, digital download offerings for movies have relied on the traditional “send to” concept where the files are delivered from a server and stored locally. According to the WSJ, Disney is close to rolling out a system that will embrace the cloud model. Consumers will be able to buy viewing rights to films that are stored in a cloudy environment, available for streaming whenever the film is wanted.

Disney’s Keychest would embed DRM (digital rights management) software in the movie files that would recognize “ownership.” In the business model being developed, a buyer would have permanent rights to view the movie over and over, on a variety of platforms, from TV’s to laptops to mobile phones to… whatever is available ten years from now.

This is very different from the offerings now available from Netflix, Amazon and Tivo, where a digital film is sent to a remote device where it sits until it is viewed and then expires. In Disney’s Keychest model, consumers don’t have to worry about storing the large files. They will trust Disney to manage storage and rely on Disney (and its partners) to stream the movie when it’s needed. The heart of the system is a “key” that would identify a consumer’s rights to use the digital file.

No pricing has been suggested. At this stage in development, Disney is still trying to rally support from other players for distribution and for content libraries. It is competing with DECE (Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem) which was announced a year ago and which has been relatively quiet since.

DECE’s participants include Alcatel-Lucent, Best Buy Co Inc, Cisco, Comcast, News Corp’s Fox, HP, Intel, Lions Gate, Microsoft Corp, General Electric Co’s NBC Universal, Viacoms Paramount, Philips, Sony, Toshiba, VeriSign, and Time Warner.

Disney believes Keychest is superior to DECE because it will work on established video formats. DECE is based on a new set of video standards that have yet to be formalized. And progress has been slow. As DVD Intelligence reported back in January,

the consortium said it would make important announcements at CES calling for interoperability of devices and websites, and usage rules that allow consumers to copy content onto household playback devices and to burn their content to physical media. To date, nothing materialized, except the setting up of a website www.decellc.com/

Ten months later, the DECE website still has no details. Apparently, Disney doesn’t want to wait any longer.

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