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Macrovision takes its tech to audio

The company, best known as the creator of the copy protection technology that's contained on virtually every commercial videotape, is forming a new division focused on music piracy.

Macrovision, best known as the creator of the copy protection technology that's contained on virtually every commercial videotape, said Tuesday that it is forming a new division focused on music piracy.

The company has been steadily increasing its profile in the music industry for a year, with successively deeper moves into the business of protecting audio compact discs from copying. The creation of the new division marks the close of Macrovision's acquisition of one of its main rivals, Israel-based Midbar Technologies.

"Digital rights management and copy protection solutions for the worldwide music industry represent one of Macrovision's most important growth opportunities," Macrovision CEO Bill Krepick said. "This new division further underscores Macrovision's commitment to the audio space."

The company's recent moves are part of a spurt of consolidation in the copy protection business that appears likely to set the stage for a new era of experimentation, if not actual adoption.

After Macrovision's acquisition of Midbar, Sony announced that it was jointly acquiring digital rights management company InterTrust and licensing another similar technology from Content Guard. Various divisions of Sony have also created their own copy protection technologies for audio CDs as well.

The flurry of activity hasn't yet manifested itself in actual products, however. While online music and movie subscription services such as Pressplay and Movielink do offer copy-protected digital files, few compact discs in the U.S. market have been loaded with antipiracy technology.

Although such technology is more common on audio CDs in Europe and Asia, record label executives remain skeptical of the copy protection technology's ability to function without fault in all CD players, and are wary of consumer backlash.

Macrovision and other companies are seeking to assuage the record labels' worries by loading CDs with files that can be transferred and played on a computer, alongside ordinary music files that can't be copied.

In related news, Macrovision also said Tuesday that DVD software company Intervideo would add support for Macrovision's video copy protection technology inside the popular WinDVD software package.

That will give video on demand companies the option of using Macrovision's technology to protect their content as they send it online, and allow movies to be played using Intervideo's WinDVD software.

However, the most prominent video on demand effort, the Hollywood studio-backed Movielink, already uses Microsoft's Windows Media or RealNetworks' technology, each of which contains its own digital rights management system.