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TRAI issues new regulations on addressable systems

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) (Fifth Amendment) Regulations, 2023 (4 of 2023).

DRM is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they’ve purchased. DRM products were developed in response to the rapid increase in online piracy of commercially marketed material, which proliferated through the widespread use of peer-to-peer file exchange programs. Typically, DRM is implemented by embedding code that prevents copying, specifies a time period in which the content can be accessed or limits the number of devices the media can be installed on.

TRAI notified the Telecommunication (Broadcasting & cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable System) Regulation, 2017 on 03.03.2017 [hereinafter referred to as Interconnection Regulations].

During the consultation undertaken to prepare the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Digital Addressable Systems Audit Manual [hereinafter referred to as Audit Manual], certain comments and observations reflected some issues in the Schedule III of the Interconnection Regulations.

Accordingly, Draft Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019 was issued on 27.08.2019 which included issues related to Digital Rights Management Systems.

The Schedule III of the Interconnection Regulations does not provide for the requirements/specifications of DRM based systems. The Authority, during its consultations on Audit manual, received the feedback that owing to its benefits the IPTV based DPOs are switching to DRM technology. It is necessary that the Audit regime covers the DRM based networks and provides for enabling provisions for such operators. Accordingly, Draft Regulations dated 27.08.2019 mentioned above, included DRM specifications in Schedule III.

During the consultation process, the Authority received numerous comments and suggestions from various stakeholders on this issue. Numerous modification/additions were proposed by several stakeholders. Hence, the Authority was of the opinion that system requirements for DRM shall be dealt with in a separate consultation paper (refer para 34 of Explanatory Memorandum to the Interconnection (Amendment) Regulations, 2019 dated 30.10.2019).

The Authority was of the view that on the issue related to “System Requirements for Digital Right Management System”, extensive deliberations with industry stakeholders is required. Accordingly, the Authority constituted a committee comprising of industry stakeholders to prepare and submit draft ‘System Requirement for Digital Right Management (DRM)’ to the Authority.

After extensive deliberations, the committee submitted a report on “System requirement for Digital Right Management (DRM)” to be included in Schedule III of the Interconnection Regulation to the Authority.

Accordingly, TRAI had issued Consultation Paper on ‘System Requirement for Digital Right Management (DRM)’ in the form of draft amendment in the Interconnection Regulation 2017 on 09.09.2022. The comments of the stakeholders were invited by 07.10.2022 and counter comments, by 21.10.2022. On request of the stakeholders, the deadline to submit the comments was extended till 18.11.2022 for comments and 02.12.2022 for counter-comments. Comments on the said consultation paper were received from twenty one stakeholders and counter-comments were received from two stakeholders, which were uploaded on TRAI website. Subsequently, an Open House Discussion (OHD) was held on 24.02.2023. A few additional comments were also received after OHD.

The Authority analysed the comments of the stakeholders and to protect the interests of service providers and consumers has notified amendment to Interconnection Regulations. The main features of the amendments are as follows:

  • A new schedule X has been prescribed for Digital Rights Management (DRM) System Requirements which include:
  • DRM requirements in so far as they relate to subscriber management systems (SMS) for IPTV services.
  • DRM requirements for conditional access by subscribers and encryption for IPTV services.
  • DRM requirements in so far as they relate to fingerprinting for IPTV services
  • DRM requirements in so far as they relate to STBs/unique consumer subscription
  • An enabling, technology neutral, light-touch regulatory regime, which facilitates growth and technological developments while protecting the consumer’s interest is promoted to foster overall growth.
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