Hollywood unites in the battle against movie pirates

The new MovieLabs consortium will begin operation later this year

The six major Hollywood studios, hoping to gain more control over their technological destiny, have agreed to jointly finance a multimillion-dollar research laboratory to speed the development of new ways to foil movie pirates.

The new nonprofit consortium is to be called Motion Picture Laboratories — MovieLabs for short — and will begin operation later this year, the New York Times reported. According to Hollywood executives involved in its establishment, MovieLabs will have a budget of more than $30 million for its first two years. The idea arose out of Hollywood’s contention that the consumer electronics and information technology industries are not investing heavily or quickly enough in piracy-fighting technology.

The lab is modeled after CableLabs, which since 1988 has spearheaded pivotal innovations in the cable television industry — hastening the adoption of fiber optics, cable modems, telephony and digital video. Hollywood’s version will begin with a more modest mandate, said Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). It will focus principally on piracy prevention.

The initial projects planned for MovieLabs include studying these problems or devising these solutions:

  • Ways to jam camcorders being used inside movie theaters, or to project movies with flickering images that are invisible to the eye but will appear on unauthorized video recordings.
  • Network management technologies to detect and block illegal file transfers on campus and business networks.
  • Traffic analysis tools to detect illegal content sharing on peer-to-peer networks.
  • Ways to prevent home and personal digital networks from being tapped into by unauthorized users, while not preventing consumers from sending a movie to more than one TV set without having to pay for it each time.
  • Ways to link senders and receivers of movies transmitted over the Internet to geographic and political territories, to monitor the distribution of movies and prevent the violation of license agreements.

The Hollywood studios have teamed up on research and development before, most recently in the Digital Cinema Initiative, through which the major studios combined with the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California to write uniform specifications for and test digital movie distribution technology.

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