A logo program I can get behind
Neuros has proposed a new logo to identify DRM-free content and the devices that play it.
Neuros is a device manufacturer with a simple focus: it creates devices that let you record video from almost any source into a digital format (MPEG-4) that can then be played on almost any device. The trick: its devices connect to your video output sources (VCR, DVD player, etc.) using standard analog RCA cables, avoiding digital copy-protection technologies like HDCPor CSS. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like this method skirts the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions: the devices don't bypass these digital copy protection schemes, they simply take the signal after the device has decoded it, and allow you to make a copy for personal use and archiving. (Plus, content owners are primarily worried about digital-to-digital copies, which lose no quality with each generation.)
Copy-protection and DRM technology run counter to the goals of Neuros--while Neuros wants to make it easier to make copies for personal use and play content on any device, these technologies make it harder. Now, Neuros is proposing a logo program--Unlocked--that would let consumers identify DRM-free content and the devices that play that content. In other words, content that actually .
It's only a proposal at this point: Neuros actually intends for some third party (the EFF?) to administer the program. And there are a couple important questions that aren't answered on the Unlocked page.
First, while DRM is the most notable technology preventing universal playback, what about codecs and file formats? Unprotected Windows Media content can be played on any device...as long as the device maker has licensed the codecs from Microsoft. Would it qualify as Unlocked? MPEG-2, MP3, and MPEG-4 are widely supported, but protected by patents and require a license fee. Would they be Unlocked? Or would the Unlocked logo only be applied to content in license- and patent-free formats like FLAC or Ogg Vorbis?
Second, how restrictive would the logo be for device makers? Would it exclude devices, like the iPod, iPhone, and Zune, that are capable of playing DRM-protected content? Or would it include any device that can play unprotected content in the Unlocked-approved file formats?
Still, identifying DRM-free content seems like an excellent place to begin, and I hope that Neuros can get some of the big players to the table to hammer out a definition that helps consumers. A good place to start would be content distributors who have stayed away from selling DRM-encumbered files--Amazon and eMusic come to mind.