Coalition hopes to allow for content transfer, prevent Net downloads

In a bid to stop rampant illegal copying of DVDs, Warner Bros., Disney and Sony are teaming with a number of tech companies to design new technology that will limit piracy on the next generation of DVDs while allowing limited copying to computers and portable devices.

Alliance of studios, hybrid content/electronics company Sony and tech giants IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba and Panasonic could help create a uniform standard for Hollywood that lets users transfer digital content to multiple devices while preventing unlimited downloads on the Internet.

If successful, coalition’s standard could solve the question of how to protect content on the two high-definition DVD systems in development, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Tech firms behind both technologies are part of the new coalition.

Companies announced their coalition and a name, the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Authority, at a meeting of the copy protection technology working group, a multi-industry antipiracy forum, in L.A. Wednesday. Most of the participants have been known in tech circles to be working together for well over a year, making the public announcement news only for the broader Hollywood community.

“Instead of just being defensive, we want to make sure there are more options for consumers to reach media, because in the long run they’re going to watch what they want where and when they want to,” said Bob Lambert, senior VP for new technology and development at Disney.

Once available, the technology specification would have to be implemented both on new DVDs and devices capable of playing them, including computers and DVD players. In order to avoid the frustration for consumers of multiple formats that don’t work together, it would likely have to be adopted by most studios.

Specification is still far from completed, though. Group hopes to release a first version and licensing agreement by late this year.

“This is an unprecedented level of communication, but lots of big questions still have to be worked out before a system can be deployed,” commented Paul Kocher, prexy of Cryptography Research, who attended the unveiling.

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