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Saturday, January 14, 2006
Copy Protection Shuts Out Spielberg's New Movie

Steven Spielberg's forthcoming movie amy be excluded from British and Oscar Movie contests due to a mistake done in the regional code of the sample DVD disc provided to the academy's members for preview.

UK's Guardian newspaper Wednesday reported that Spielberg's "Munich" preview DVD movie sent to the academy's members was unplayable on machines used in the UK. As a result the majority of Bafta's 5,000 voters will not have seen the film, due to be released in Britain on January 27, and can hardly be expected to recommend it for acclaim.

Sara Keene at Premier PR, the company coordinating Munich's Bafta campaign, blamed the mistake on human error at the laboratory where the DVDs were encrypted. "Someone pushed the wrong button," she said. "It was a case of rotten bad luck." She insisted that the film's distributor, Universal, was not at fault.

The problem, it appears, was partly down to teething troubles with the limited edition DVD players issued last October to Bafta members. Developed by Cinea, a subsidiary of Dolby, the players permit their owners to view encrypted DVD "screeners", but prevent the creation of pirate copies. Cinea encrypts each disc with a code unique to each member. The Cinea disc delivered to each member will play only on the Cinea S-VIEW DVD player registered by that member. A Cinea encrypted disc cannot be viewed on any other DVD player or computer. Munich screeners were encoded for region one, which allows them to be played in the US and Canada, rather than region two, which incorporates most of Europe.

The faulty DVDs only reached Bafta members last Saturday, which meant the film had already missed out on the first round of voting on January 4.

"The general feeling among members is that the film has now been shut out of the nominations simply because not enough people have actually had the opportunity to see the thing," told Guardian one Bafta member.

DVD screeners remain a vexed issue for distributors concerned about the potential for piracy. But the evidence suggests that they play a vital role in raising a film's profile among award voters.

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