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HP preps pirate-fighting projector

The company is working on a project aimed at stopping people from camcording movies in theaters, a board member says.

ASPEN, Colo.--Hewlett-Packard is developing a projection technology designed to foil camcorder-outfitted pirates in movie theaters, according to a board member.

Tom Perkins, a legendary venture capitalist and partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, alluded to the research at a dinner gathering here Tuesday, part of the Progress & Freedom Foundation's annual conference.

"We have a new projection technology that we think will make the image immune from a teenager sitting in the (audience) with a video camera," Perkins said.

An HP spokesman confirmed that the company was working on a research project fitting that description, but declined to provide any further details.

If adopted, the company's technology could help prevent the piracy of movies with handheld camcorders, a technique that typically yields low-quality results but nevertheless has bedeviled the movie industry. A federal law enacted this spring makes it a crime to videotape movies without permission of the copyright owner.

Another company, called Cinea, won a $2 million National Science Foundation grant in 2002 for a similar idea. That company used slight modifications in the "timing and modulation of the light used to display the image" in order to distort any videotaped version of the film, the company's grant proposal said.

Cinea was acquired by audio pioneer Dolby Laboratories in late 2003.

Perkins didn't elaborate on what HP had planned, and joked that he probably wasn't supposed to divulge what he did. "I'll probably get whacked for saying this," he told the audience at the conference.

HP sells a line of digital projectors for office and home theater use.

CNET's John Borland contributed to this report.