Dolby's antipiracy tech to still send players

After making a big splash with its promise to solve Hollywood’s screener piracy woes two years ago, Cinea doesn’t look to be a player during this year’s awards season.

Last year, the antipiracy tech unit of Dolby sent out free DVD players that play specially copy-protected discs to every member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, BAFTA, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the Screen Actors Guild nominating committee and critics’ circle members. It plans to continue that program, sending its S-View player to new members of the orgs on an ongoing basis.

The entire screener program, on which Cinea lost millions, was largely a publicity vehicle to get its name in the press and its technology in front of studios. Company considers that program a success, and as a result, it’s now focused on profit-making endeavors and isn’t actively soliciting studios to get involved.

“We’ll continue to support the players and provide them to new members, but we think it has already served its core purpose of being a showcase for us,” said Cinea VP Larry Roth. “Our message to studios now is, ‘If you want to use it, we’re here for you.’ “

After failing to get its players to Academy members in time for screener season in late 2004, Cinea had mixed success last year getting studios to protect their discs using its technology so they would work only on the S-View players and couldn’t be pirated. Disney was the only one to do so in the U.S., while New Line, Universal and several indies used Cinea for BAFTA members in the U.K.

Roth said he’s fairly confident that some studios will use S-View again for BAFTA screeners, since last year’s winner, “Brokeback Mountain,” was encrypted by Cinea, showing that BAFTA voters are comfortable with the technology.

Domestically, however, prospects are more doubtful. Generally, for the studios, screener piracy seems a relatively minor concern compared with bootleg DVDs overseas and the opportunities to make money online through digital distribution.

Since starting the screener program, Cinea has signed up several studios to use its technology for other projects. The Mouse House now uses S-View for certain internal copies of films, while Sony and MGM utilized it for some dailies during production of “Casino Royale.”

Cinea also is investing heavily in watermarking technology that could be used for digital downloads.

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