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New Coalition Developing DVD Watermark
David Lawlor 04/25/2001 

Technology will prevent illegal copying of DVDs, companies say.

An alliance of seven technology companies has developed a digital watermark technology that it says could be available on DVDs as early as September. 

The Video Watermarking Group (VWM) is a combined venture of Hitachi, NEC, Pioneer, Sony, Digimarc, Macrovision, and Philips. The companies have come together after months of negotiations to combine their technologies and produce a digital watermark that will be embedded in original DVDs, says John Fread, director of public relations for Digimarc. 

Detector circuits in future DVD recorders and playback machines will read the watermark, says Miz Nakajima, spokesperson for Digimarc. The technology does not work with today's DVD players. 

Along with existing encryption technology, the new watermark will add another layer of protection from illegal copying, Fread says. 

"The technology can either allow no copies of the DVD to be made or allow a single copy to be made, depending on the content owner’s specifications," Fread says. 

Watermark technology is especially helpful because it allows companies to track a DVD that has been copied, says Simon Poulter, a Philips spokesperson. 

"Watermarking is a discreet method of preventing copyright infringement," Poulter says. "It’s very clever technology because it can be used for tracking to see where copies have come from when they turn up. This makes it a preventive solution insofar as it will deter people [from copying DVDs]."

The Motion Picture Association of Americaestimates its member studios annually lose $3.5 billion globally and $250 million domestically in videocassette film revenues to piracy. 

The VWM will send its watermark technology to the DVD-Copy Control Association (DVD-CCA) for testing and approval in July. The association (a not-for-profit industry group that licenses content-scrambling technology to manufacturers of DVD hardware and content) is expected to announce a decision by September, at which time the technology could start being licensed to DVD content providers. Macrovision will coordinate the licensing efforts. 

David Lawlor covers business news for Business2.0 Online.

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