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The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the use of Video Content Protection System (VCPS), the DVD+RW Alliance's preferred copy-protection system.

VCPS essentially governs the recording of digital TV shows onto DVD+RW media. The FCC has defined what it calls the 'Broadcast Flag', a code that can be transmitted with digital broadcasts that indicates the broadcaster's willingness to allow consumers who've recorded a programme to make further copies of it.

The idea is that pirates will not be able to use digital broadcasts as a source of material for illicit DVDs, but quite clearly it has the potential to stop fans recording and archiving their favourite shows.

Video Content Protection System - look for this signVCPS detects the Broadcast Flag and applies it to the recorded content on DVD+R and DVD+RW, single- and dual-layer media. The FCC's Broadcast Flag rule comes into force on 1 July 2005, and all digital TV receivers must be capable of supporting the DRM technology from that date onwards. The technology is not mandatory for recorders, but equipment and discs without VCPS capability will be unable to record or play TV broadcast in the US that is protected with the Broadcast Flag.

VCPS was developed by HP and Philips under the codename 'Vidi'. Both are DVD+RW Alliance members. So is Thomson, and it too has received FCC approval for its own Broadcast Flag support system, SmartRight.

Philips is handling the licensing of VCPS and is charging a one-off fee of €5000, an annual fee of €10,000 plus other royalties depending on what you're licensing the technology for - software, disc mastering tools, disc replication equipment, etc.

VCPS protects the video recording by encrypting the MPEG 2 streams. A variety of techniques are used, including encrypting the disc sectors that contain MPEG 2 video using 128-bit AES. Blank media are equipped with a Disk Key Block in their track wobble (ADIP) data, with which the hardware uses its own Device Key to encrypt and decrypt the recorded MPEG 2 data.

Protected and un-protected content can be recorded on the same disc, Philips says. ®

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