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Academy backs 'pirate-proof' tech for Oscar samplers

But will movie biz bite?

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has sanctioned the use of 'pirate-proof' DVDs to allow Oscar voters to preview the movies they're supposed to have seen before choosing their favourite director, actor, gratuitous use of the word f**k in a serious screenplay, etc.

If it wins the support of the studios, the move will see DVD content protection specialist and Dolby subsidiary Cinea shipping thousands of discs and players to voters.

In addition to a new hardwired encryption system, Cinea's S-View uses a watermarking system that writes a code identifying the host DVD player onto the disc every time it's played and even embeds it into key picture frames. If the disc is copied or the image grabbed using a camcorder pointing to the screen, Cinea can determine whose disc was used as the source for the pirate copies.

According to an Associated Press report, Cinea will have to spend "several million dollars" to send out the discs and the players they are linked to, which seems a tad pricey to us but undoubtedly the company believes it money well spent if it encourages studios and movie industry members to choose one of its other anti-piracy technologies, pitched at production systems as well as consumer players.

Voters are likely to prefer having DVDs to the watermarked VHS tapes sent out last year after the Academy rescinded an initial ban on DVD and cassettes. It feared that movies not yet released on DVD or which had yet to open in cinemas would be bootlegged.

The Academy has proclaimed itself impressed with Cinea's system. All it needs now is the support of the studios, who will need to invest in the kit needed to encrypt the content after it has been encoded for DVD. ®

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