Movie blackout for P2P networks?

Philips, others are developing ways to identify and block movies being traded on peer-to-peer networks.

Researchers at Royal Philips Electronics are developing new "fingerprinting" technology that could automatically identify and block transmission of digital-video files, potentially handing movie studios a new weapon in its war on peer-to-peer networks.

The technique would be similar to technology already being used to track and prevent copying of music files on some university networks. Philips' audio fingerprinting technology is central to Napster founder Shawn Fanning's new company Snocap, which aims to turn file-swapping networks into digital-song stores.

Once completed, Philips' technology--along with related tools from other companies--could be a powerful weapon in Hollywood's increasingly aggressive attempts to choke off the flood of films being traded online. For now, the tools are in an early stage of development, but Philips has begun to show them to potential partners and customers.

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What's new:
Researchers are developing ways to identify and block movies being traded on peer-to-peer networks.

Bottom line:
The new tools could be a powerful weapon in Hollywood's attempts to choke off the flood of films being traded online, and could reignite the debates over P2P legislation.

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"For identifying content over peer-to-peer networks, this is the ideal technology to use," said Ronald Maandonks, business development manager for content identification at Philips. "We are now working with a group of engineers to improve it."

A tool for identifying video mid-swap could reignite the debates over peer-to-peer legislation. Entertainment companies have pressed peer-to-peer software companies to install filters that block copyright material, but the software companies have said the idea is impractical.

Fingerprinting first appeared in the peer-to-peer world when a federal judge ordered the original Napster to block trades of copyright songs through its network in 2001. The company used early versions of audio fingerprinting technology to identify songs, which ultimately helped make the network all but unusable.

Independent company Audible Magic appeared several years later, saying it had developed its own way of fingerprinting songs online. The company's claims were quickly taken up by the Recording Industry Association of America, which said file-swapping companies should build this kind of song-stopping filters into their software.

Audible Magic's technology is now being used by a handful of universities, including Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., and Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, to identify and block song swaps on their networks.

Computers watching movies
Video fingerprinting would work much like its musical cousin. In the case of songs, a unique string of data (the "fingerprint") is associated with each recording. Software that can be installed inside an ISP network monitors files being swapped, checking for matches to

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