Group unveils digital encryption technology

With digital television poised to transform home entertainment, a group of five major computer and electronics firms Thursday proposed a method of protecting video and audio content from unauthorized duplication.

The five electronics and computer companies have developed a standard method of encrypting digital television broadcasts, as well as other digital audio or video content, that would allow the playback of the signals while preventing illegal copying.

Members of the entertainment community, led by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, as well as the cable and recording industries, will evaluate the proposal to determine if it addresses all their concerns.

“Developing the ability to protect digital content in transit is a very important step in delivering the highest quality in picture and sound to the consumer,” said Chris Cookson, executive VP at Warner Bros.

Entertainment companies worry about infringements on their copyrights, since digital content can be copied over and over without degradation in quality — a fear intensified by the increasing availability of digital components such as recordable DVD decks.

The FCC has mandated that public broadcast of digital television signals begin in the fall of this year.

Proposing the standard are Intel Corp., Matsushita Electronic Corp. of America, Sony Electronics, Hitachi and Toshiba. Their framework involves an existing standard method for connecting home-based digital devices, such as set-top cable boxes, digital televisions, computers and DVD players.

If approved, the encryption standard would be incorporated into the manufacture of digitally based electronic devices.

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