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Macrovision Introduces Piracy Plug

17 Feb, 2005 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Vowing to stop the “rent, rip, and return” of DVDs, Macrovision Corp. has disclosed technology it claims would protect copyrighted content from illegal copying without hindering playback.

Slated to be available in the second quarter of this year, RipGuard DVD is embedded within a disc and can reportedly obstruct 97 percent of available software used to illegally burn content onto recordable DVDs or upload online to file-sharing networks.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Macrovision markets analog-based CSS anti-piracy software it says is embedded in more than 9 billion commercial DVD, VHS and CD units.

In 1999, when Norwegian teen Jon Johansen created DeCSS software that allowed users to copy CSS-protected DVD content onto the Internet, it spawned illegal copying that today the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reports has cost the studios billions in sales.

The MPAA and the DVD Copy Control Association filed data-theft charges against Johansen in 2000 (acquitted in 2003), alleging that he had accessed a movie DVD using a computer that was not licensed with association's software.

“As CSS was cracked, for our [studio] customers the value of analog-only protection became less pressing compared to the money they perceived they were losing through the digital hole,” said Adam Gervin, senior director of marketing with Macrovision.

Individual acts of piracy notwithstanding, Gervin said studios have become alarmed recently as the plunging rental and meteoric sellthrough models collided, thereby creating opportunity for theft.

“It is just too tempting and too easy for regular folks to go to Blockbuster and for the price of rental plus 20 cents for a blank disc, they can own the movie that would otherwise cost them $25,” Gervin said.

The MPAA declined comment on RipGuard, and studios, while embracing improved safeguards on their content, appeared reluctant to comment on the record.

“Studios are always looking for ways to boost antipiracy protection,” said one studio source that wished to remain anonymous. “That's the whole unspoken drift toward [next-generation DVD formats]: improved antipiracy protection.”

That said, studios are wary of the public backlash the music industry endured as it pursued consumers allegedly downloading pirated music files.

“You don't want to really go out of your way to tick people off,” the source said. “The best way to fight piracy is to create compelling consumer value.”

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