That creates their UltraViolet "digital locker" -- a place where information is stored about each creative work they own. Each household will be able to register up to six people to a digital locker. They must also register up to 12 hardware devices where they will be able to play their UltraViolet movies and TV shows.
They'll then be able to watch that content on any of those devices, as well as on any participating streaming media and cable service, regardless of where they bought the content. So if they bought a movie on DVD from Best Buy, for example, they should be able to watch it streamed to their Xbox console once they have entered the code to show they own it in their digital locker.
They should also be able to watch their content away from home, in a hotel with a video on demand service, for example. So if they bought the first series of "Glee" on Netflix, they'll be able to watch it while on vacation if the video on demand service at the hotel is an UltraViolet member.
The 12-device limit is likely to raise some hackles, but Doherty says Apple and Microsoft limit people to five devices today for their iTunes and Zune services. Getting the movie studios to agree to 12 devices was a big concession on their part, he said.
The studios say people will be able to update those 12 devices over time, so when an old computer dies they'll be able to remove it from the list and register another one.
At the end of the year, UltraViolet plans to introduce a new file format. People will then be able to burn movies they buy to a disk or USB stick and play them on their other 12 devices, said Mark Teitell, general manager of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE, the industry group formed to steer the effort.
The project has seen an unmatched level of cooperation among those involved, according to Doherty. More engineers have worked on it than on the Blu-ray standard, he said.
If all goes as planned, hardware makers will introduce TVs and Blu-ray players with the required chipset and firmware updates for UltraViolet in 2012, said Tae-Jin (T.J.) Kang, a senior vice president with Samsung Electronics. That may include things like built-in menu listings that let people see their UltraViolet content.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.