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Monday, February 23, 2004
Thomson touts content protection scheme for Oscars

In the run up to this year's Academy Awards on Feb. 29, Thomson has revealed it's collaboration with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to embed traceable, individually-watermarked technologies.

The technologies were used in advance copies of nominated films distributed to the Academy members late last year.

Responding to MPAA's calls for help to combat piracy, Thomson modified watermarking technology developed by unnamed third-party technology partners to build a secure movie production work flow. The process included making a master copy and encoding it with special markings to creating a unique label and package, said Tom Bracken, vice president, Worldwide Marketing and Communications, Thomson Digital Content Solutions Division.

MPAA needed the procedure so that a specific tape or DVD could be traced back to the intended recipient of the copy.

With a number of Oscar-nominated films, Thomson claimed that its Technicolor trackable technology was used to trace a screener copy released on the Internet in January. The discovery led to the arrest of an alleged member of an Internet piracy ring.

The watermark embedded in VHS or DVD is nearly undetectable to the naked eye,according to the company. In theory, the same technology used in screeners is scalable to consumer applications. Bracken, however, said it is probably “not applicable” to volume VHS or DVD copies designed to for sale at large retailers. That's because screener technology was developed specifically to trace a particular tape to a single individual, he explained. The technology's "addressability" may become a useful tool if pirates start downloading films to the Internet.

A number of copy protection mechanisms are already in place in consumer devices. But the motion picture industry is looking to deployment of both systems — “Digital Rights Management” through locks and keys along with a “tracking mechanism such as watermarks” to prove where content originated.

Bracken said Sony is also developing its own system using similar technologies.

In advance of the 2004 Cesars Awards held in Paris this past weekend, Thomson manufactured "Flexplay DVD" screeners for the European Movie Art and Techniques Academy members. The device uses a pre-set viewing window of 48 hours beginning when a disk is removed from its packaging. After 48 hours, the disk becomes unreadable by a DVD player, providing anti-copying protection, Thomson said.

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