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Saturday, December 14, 2002
Copy protection logjam shows signs of breaking


The five-year war over copy protection of digital content pitting Hollywood studios against technology companies may be winding down, now that key consumer electronics giants, including Philips Electronics, appear to be uniting behind the smart-card-based SmartRight technology originally developed by Thomson Multimedia.

EE Times has learned that Philips is close to signing an agreement to join the initiative, a move that could tip the balance in SmartRight's favor and bring the drawn-out drama to a close. Such a development would also retire the widely held industry view that SmartRight, originally called XCA and promoted only by Thomson and Zenith, would go nowhere.

In recent months, SmartRight has attracted other backers, including Canal+ Technologies, Gemplus, Micronas, Nagravision, Pioneer, SchlumbergerSema, STMicroelectronics and SCM Microsystems. They and several other companies are ready to demonstrate the SmartRight proposal, which appears to satisfy Hollywood studios' demands that their digital content be protected against theft.

The battle isn't quite over yet, though. A number of issues remain unresolved, foremost among them being agreement on the mechanics of how to actually protect content. The Digital Video Broadcast group (DVB), the industry body striving to develop a framework for technical requirements for copy protection, has missed a self-imposed deadline to work out a plan before the year's end.

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