Hollywood strikes back at Video Pirates

Hollywood strikes back at Video Pirates
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November 23, 2004 The war on movie-piracy has entered a new turn with Trakstar, a Florida based company demonstrating what they claim is a solution to in-theatre movie bootlegging. Hollywood studio executives and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) representatives have tested the new anti-piracy technologies, which detect the presence of camcorders in movie theatres and embed 'audio watermarks' in recordings for later identification.

Trakstar's new 'Pirate-Eye' anti-piracy technology detects the covert presence of camcorders "in-theatre" and establishes their precise location. PirateEye rejects "false positives" and is designed for minimal impact on the moviegoer's experience. The remote-controlled device, which is said to resemble Darth Vader's helmet, perches on a stand directly below the movie screen at the front of the theatre. The small black box shoots brief, almost invisible pulses of light at the audience, but is not in itself laser powered. Any active camera lenses in the audience reflect back a telltale light that the Pirate-Eye senses, triggering a digital snapshot captured with a built-in digital camera and alerting in-theatre security.

The second line of defence against bootleggers is a forensic audio-watermarking technology called TVS. It places an inaudible "watermark" within the audio portion of A/V content for either forensic identification to trace the date, time and theatre at which a pirated file originated. A variant of this watermarking has been in service 24/7 within the Latin American feeds of cable networks operated by Fox, Disney, USA, MGM and The Weather Channel since 2000.

The new anti-piracy technologies were developed in partnership with Apogen Technologies, a defence contractor noted for breakthroughs in both laser and sensor technology. Trakstar is responding to the needs of its Motion Picture clients for a reliable and cost-effective counter-measure to the threat posed to them by in-theatre camcorder piracy. The Motion Picture Association of America, representing Hollywood's seven major studios, is reviewing a commercial-feasibility study for the two-part Trakstar system, which may see the technology installed as early as mid-2005.

"Camcorder piracy is a major problem for the studios because it occurs at the beginning of a movie life cycle," MPAA technology chief Brad Hunt said. "That has a major impact on downstream revenue possibilities if a pirated copy becomes available while the movie's still in its theatrical window."

Dolby Laboratories subsidiary Cinea and other companies are also working on camera-jamming devices to stem the tide of in-theatre video-piracy.

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