US 20060085821 A9
A system and method for enabling a user to request and download selected media files from distributed content provider sites via the Internet. The system includes a plurality of user sites each including a player/receiver housed in an enclosure having a simple user interface, a plurality of content provider sites, and a transaction server site. The player/receiver enables the user to connect to the transaction server via the Internet to access a program guide listing available media files. The user is then able to select a desired file and, via the player/receiver and Internet, request the transaction server to authorize download of the selected file. The file request along with file encryption and transfer instructions are sent from the transaction server via the Internet to the content provider site storing the requested file. Requested files are then dynamically encrypted by the content provider site and securely downloaded to the requesting player/receiver. The requesting player/receiver is uniquely capable of decrypting a downloaded file concurrent with playing back the file on a conventional home television set and/or audio system.
1. A system for executing user transaction requests for delivering digital media files via the Internet for driving a user site television set and/or audio equipment, said system comprising:
a plurality of user sites, each user site including a player/receiver, a television set and/or audio equipment, and a connectivity device for connecting said player/receiver to the Internet;
one or more provider sites, each provider site including a media server comprising a media file storage device and a media file encryptor, and a connectivity device for connecting said provider site media server to the Internet;
a transaction server and a connectivity device for connecting said transaction server to the Internet;
each said player/receiver including a user interface for sending a media file request via the Internet to said transaction server requesting delivery of an identified media file;
said transaction server being responsive to a received media file request for sending an authorization to the provider site storing the requested media file authorizing delivery of the requested media file from said provider site to the requesting player/receiver directly via the Internet;
said authorized provider site being responsive to said transaction server authorization for uniquely encrypting the identified media file and for downloading the encrypted media file directly via the Internet to said requesting player/receiver;
each said player/receiver including a media file decryptor; and wherein
only said requesting player/receiver decryptor is capable of decrypting said encrypted media file downloaded thereto for playback on the television set and/or audio equipment at the same user site.
2. The system of
3. The system of
said authorization sent by said transaction server includes said encryption key; and wherein
said authorized provider site encrypts said media file using said encryption key.
4. The system of
said authorization sent by said transaction server includes said encryption key; and wherein
said authorized provider site uses said encryption key to dynamically encrypt said media file concurrently with downloading said file to said requesting player/receiver.
5. The system of
6. The system of
7. The system of
a digital storage device for storing downloaded encrypted media files; and
a user interface for accessing a stored encrypted media file and for controlling playback of said accessed file.
8. The system of
9. The system of
10. The system of
means at each of said user sites for displaying said program guide.
11. The system of
12. The system of
said transaction server responds to receipt of said user identification data for verifying account status for the identified user.
13. The system of
14. A method for executing user transaction requests for delivering digital media files via the Internet for driving a user site television set and/or audio equipment comprising the steps of:
enabling each of a plurality of users to generate a transaction request including user identification information and media file identification information;
communicating each transaction request via the Internet to a transaction server;
causing said transaction server to verify said user identification information and identify a media server storing the identified media file;
enabling said transaction server to instruct the identified media server to download the identified media file to the requesting user directly via the Internet;
causing said identified media server to uniquely encrypt the identified media file and download it directly via the Internet to the requesting user; and
enabling only the requesting user to decrypt said encrypted media file for playback on a television set and/or audio equipment at the requesting user's site.
15. The method of
causing said transaction server to send said encryption key to said identified media server.
16. The method of
17. The method of
18. The method of
19. The method of
enabling each user to store one or more encrypted media files downloaded thereto; and
enabling each user to play back a stored media file on a television set and/or audio equipment concurrently with decrypting that file.
20. The method of
21. The method of
22. The method of
23. The method of
This invention relates to systems for delivering digital media files (e.g., audio and/or video) from content provider sites to home user entertainment systems (e.g., television sets and/or audio equipment) via communications networks including public networks, e.g. Internet, and private networks, e.g., intranet and extranet.
Existing systems for transferring media files to the home user are typically complex, expensive to implement and maintain, lack sufficient security and flexibility, do not effectively utilize existing home entertainment infrastructure, and do not effectively leverage the open architecture of the Internet and standard communications protocols or encryption technologies. Generally, the limitations of not existing systems can be attributed to attempts to force a broadcast model onto communications network architectures that are designed to store and forward data as packets, rather than as continuous streams.
For example, so called “video on demand” systems deliver only video files for viewing and the infrastructure to enable transfer of those files to the home user is highly capital intensive. Moreover, such systems are typically difficult to scale since at any point in time, a unique stream must be dedicated to a particular user, from the video server to the users set top box. Since users can theoretically request video “broadcasting” at any time, the service provider must have sufficient capacity and communications bandwidth available at all times to insure that a program channel can be created whenever the user desires. Further, video on demand systems typically do not have the capability to access and transfer media files that reside on networks outside of the proprietary networks operated by the particular video on demand operator. This limits the number of titles that can be offered.
Special purpose home terminals are also known in the prior art for enabling home user access to the Internet or world wide web. These terminals require the home user to purchase and learn to use a special purpose device that does not leverage the user's current investment in home entertainment and communications infrastructure. Further, these devices do not facilitate effective storage and playback of media files downloaded from the Internet since they do not typically interface to conventional television sets or audio systems for viewing and listening, respectively. Other prior art involving streaming media via communications networks does not address the home user's need to select and acquire media files from the Internet, for example, without having to dedicate a computer to the task. Specifically, prior art associated with streaming media from the Internet to computers does not address the need to store and play back the streamed media at user selectable times via existing home entertainment systems that are already familiar to the home user.
This invention relates generally to a method and apparatus for enabling a user to acquire media files for playback (either limited or unlimited use) on television sets and audio systems typically found in the home. The acquisition of the media files forms part of a transaction initiated by a user via a communications network for enabling content providers to download requested media files to the user. The transaction is characterized by a procedure which debits a user's payment account and credits a content provider's receipt account. Embodiments of the invention enable (1) any of a plurality of home users to request selected media files for playback on a conventional home entertainment system and (2) any of a plurality of content provider sites to respond to the request to deliver media files to a requesting home user.
More particularly, the invention relates to a system in which each home user can communicate a transaction request via a local player/receiver and a communications network to a transaction server. The transaction request includes information identifying the home user and specifying a media file, e.g. by title or assigned code number. The transaction server then verifies the user's account information and initiates an electronic banking transaction. Additionally, the transaction server instructs the content provider media server storing the requested media file to download the file via the network to the requesting home user player/receiver.
A system in accordance with the invention can operate with various, public and private communications networks but its primary application is intended to be with the public Internet for delivering media files to a home user for playback via conventional television sets and audio systems.
Systems in accordance with the invention are generally characterized by the following features:
1. They are readily scalable and can accommodate a virtually unlimited number of content provider sites and home user sites communicating via the Internet using a standard protocol, e.g., TCP/IP;
2. The systems are open in the sense that they can support a variety of media file types;
3. The content provider sites operate to encrypt a media file in the course of downloading the file to a requesting home user site; and
4. Only the requesting home user site is able to decrypt the downloaded file.
Systems in accordance with the invention preferably include:
1. A transaction server which is capable of servicing multiple home user sites and multiple content provider sites via a communications network;
2. At least one home user site comprising a player/receiver subsystem for interactively communicating with the transaction server to request the download of media files for archive storage and/or playback via substantially conventional home entertainment equipment. The player/receiver subsystem is preferably implemented as a simple user friendly appliance;
3. At least one content provider site including a media file storage device and an encryptor for dynamically encrypting media files, directly to a requesting home user site. Only the targeted home user site is able to decrypt the downloaded media files to enable playback; and
4. Network connectivity devices for connecting the home user sites, the content provider sites, and the transaction server to the network.
In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the player/receiver subsystem enables the home user to connect to the transaction server via the communications network to access a program guide of available media files which can, for example, be displayed via the home user television set. The user is then able to interactively browse the displayed list and select desired files therefrom. The user then, via the player/receiver and communications network, requests the transaction server to deliver the selected files. After appropriate user authentication and account verification, the transaction server transmits a download authorization instruction to the content provider site storing the requested media files. Encoded media files are then dynamically encrypted by the content provider site and downloaded directly to the requesting player/receiver. The encrypted files can be decrypted solely by the requesting player/receiver. The user can also browse and select media files from web site based media title listings or print guide listings.
A preferred transaction server in accordance with the invention functions to (1) authenticate each player/receiver and process file requests therefrom and (2) maintain a list of available media files and their location at multiple content provider sites. Specifically, the transaction server arranges for the downloading of requested files from a content provider site directly to the requesting player/receiver. Files downloaded to the player/receiver are preferably stored either on the player/receiver's local or storage means, e.g., a hard disk drive, or on the player/receiver's archive storage means, e.g., removable storage media such as magnetic tape or recordable CD-ROMs.
A preferred encoder subsystem in accordance with the invention functions to encode audio and/or video files from their respective sources, e.g., professional recording equipment, and provide the resultant encoded files (e.g., MPEG) to the media server at the content provider site.
A preferred encryptor in accordance with the invention dynamically encrypts files stored on a media server based on instructions received from the transaction server. The encryption format uniquely targets the requesting player/receiver to prevent playback on any other device.
In typical use, the player/receiver first connects to the transaction server, transmits an identifier, including a unique locally generated encryption key and receives authentication from the transaction server. A list of available media files is then transmitted to the player/receiver which in turn displays the list as an interactive program guide or menu, preferably on a home television set. Once files are selected from the menu, the player/receiver requests the transaction server to download the selected files. The transaction server then processes the request by generating a transaction ID and instructions and transmits that information to the content provider site containing the requested files. The files are then dynamically encrypted by the encryptor at the content provider site and transmitted via the network directly to the requesting player/receiver which stores them locally. During playback, the player/receiver decrypts and decodes the files from the local storage device and outputs them for viewing and listening via the home user television set and/or audio system.
Attention is initially directed to
It is contemplated that in most applications of the invention, the home user sites and content provider sites will be widely geographically distributed. However, the invention is not restricted to wide physical separation amongst sites. For example only, the multiple home user sites can be distributed amongst multiple apartments in a single building. Moreover, the term “home” user is not intended to restrict the sites to residences but rather is used to refer to any type of end user.
Attention is now directed to
The player/receiver subsystem 30 is comprised of a user interface 54, a system processor 56, system RAM 50, a media file decoder 60, a media file decryptor 61, a television/video (NTSC/PAL) display interface 40, and an audio stereo interface 44. The system 30 is connected via network connectivity means 12, which preferably comprises a cable or DSL compliant modem or a VSAT network connectivity device, to the network 11.
In typical use, when a player/receiver 30 (
The player/receiver then utilizes its local storage means 32 to store the encoded file(s) being received. The archive storage means 36 is used when the user has purchased media files and desires long term storage of those files. During playback by the player/receiver 30, the stored encrypted files are retrieved by processor 56 from the local storage means 32 or archive storage means 36, then decrypted, decoded and transferred via the interface 40 to the television/video display means 42, and/or the interface 44 to the audio system 46. These operations occur automatically in response to media selections made by the user operating the player/receiver 30.
It is to be noted that the media files are automatically downloaded to the player/receiver for storage as an encrypted file on the local storage means 32 or archive storage means 36 for playback at a desired time by the user. This approach makes a potentially unlimited array of media files available to the end user. Further, the system and architecture of the preferred embodiment enable content provider sites 6 to securely encrypt and transmit selected media files to authenticated users via the Internet. Further, due to the dynamic file encryption functionality and the ability of the content provider site encryptor 74 and home user site player receiver 30 to automatically generate unique encryption keys, the system provides a secure electronic commerce system that enables media owners to securely sell or rent media to users. Most importantly, because of the unique dynamic encryption, each copy of a transmitted media file can be played back only on the player/receiver for which it was encrypted, thereby ensuring a secure and profitable transaction between media seller and purchaser.
In the preferred embodiment, at the content provider site 6 (
After authentication, the transaction server 10 transmits a customized list of available files to the requesting player/receiver 30. The list customization is based on the user profile associated with each PIN that is entered into a player/receiver during a transaction session. The transaction server also maintains a database of content provider sites 6 and the content that they retain. When the transaction server 10 receives file requests from a player/receiver 30, its system processor 90 processes the request and checks a database stored on the local storage device 96 for the location of the content provider site that contains the requested file. The system processor 90 then generates a transaction ID and transaction instructions and transmits this transaction data with the requesting player/receiver's local encryption key to the content provider site possessing the requested media file. The requested files are then uniquely encrypted at the content provider site 6 using the local encryption key received from the transaction server 10. As previously mentioned, the encrypted file is then transmitted directly from the content provider site to the requesting player/receiver 30.
From the foregoing, it should now be apparent that a method and system have been disclosed for enabling a home user to request media files via a user friendly player/receiver and for such media files to be downloaded from a content provider site via a communications network for playback on a conventional television set and/or audio system at the home user site. The system includes a transaction server which responds to the user request to authenticate the user and provide authorization instructions to the content provider site to encrypt encoded media files and transmit them via the network for playback only at the requesting authenticated site.
Although a preferred embodiment has been disclosed herein, it is recognized that modifications and variations within the spirit of the invention may readily occur to those skilled in the art, and it is expressly intended that such fall within the scope of the appended claims.