U inks deal for anti-piracy technology

Watermark technology to be used throughout pic cycle

Deploying another method to combat piracy, Universal Pictures has inked a multi-year deal with Verance Corp. to use the company’s watermarking technology to copy-protect its pics.

Deal involves using Verance’s technology on all of U’s future films throughout their release cycles — from theatrical to VHS and DVD, as well as pay-per-view, video-on-demand and TV broadcasts — beginning in 2004.

The digital watermark inserts a code into an image or sound file to make the file difficult to copy or play without permission from copyright holders. Technology is inaudible to people but can be read by electronic devices.

U is using the Verance technology as another way to combat piracy, the company said. It continues to also use Macrovision’s copy protection technology on homevideo product.

Studio becomes the first Hollywood major to use Verance’s services. Other studios are considering becoming clients, especially now when the discussion of piracy has become a hot topic around town.

“Never before has there been a way to convey information to consumer devices throughout the life of a movie,” said Jerry Pierce, senior veep, technology at Universal Pictures. “The security derived from the Verance watermark allows us to be more confident in the technology we use throughout all stages of product distribution.”

San Diego-based Verance’s proprietary and patented audio watermarking technology was adopted as a worldwide industry standard by the music recording industry in 1999. Since its adoption, Verance’s technology, created in part with technology from Digimarc, has been used to protect hundreds of thousands of sound recordings and has been incorporated into more than 1 million consumer products.

“A common baseline of content protection is essential for the promise of the digital media marketplace to be realized,” said Verance chairman Clifford H. Friedman. “By offering a single platform for the cross-format protection of both music and video content, Verance’s solutions can provide an unmatched combination of benefits.”

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