Sarnoff, Cinea Foil Pirates of the Silver Screen

Sarnoff Corp. and digital cinema encryption developer Cinea have joined efforts to develop new technology that will prevent illegal camcorder recording of theatrical movies.

Cinea recently received a two-year $2 million grant from the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop the technology. As part of the partnership, Cinea will receive a license to Sarnoff's previously developed camera-defeating technology as well as digital video support. The companies plan to develop methods of encoding films with artifacts that are invisible to the human eye, but skew the camcorder's recording, so much so that the copies will be unwatchable.

The technology "will cause erratic disruptions in the recorded image, such as pulsing, radical color shifts or other irritating behavior," said Jeffrey Segal, Cinea's CTO. "When content owners want to protect a feature film from camcorder piracy, they will simply activate the system, and distribute the film as usual."

The trend toward recording first-run movies for overnight duplication and next-day sale on the black market is high, said Robert Schumann, CEO of Cinea. "The Hollywood film studios estimate this illegal activity costs the U.S. industry $3 billion a year."