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Kodak takes on free file swapping--for photos

Internet piracy is more than a music problem, company chief executive Dan Carp says as he highlights new technology to thwart online image theft.

    SAN FRANCISCO--Internet piracy is more than a music problem, Eastman Kodak chief executive Dan Carp said here today in an industry speech as he highlighted new technology to thwart online image theft.

    "Like the music industry, we can view distributed file sharing as the catalyst for an epidemic of copyright infringement and image piracy," Carp said. "Or, if we choose, we can welcome it as a way for image owners to reach broader markets...I subscribe to the latter view."

    In a keynote address at the annual Seybold Seminars on digital publishing, Carp talked up a new digital watermark for images as an example of Kodak technologies now available or on the drawing board to push photography further into the Internet age.

    Kodak has been working to ditch its image as an "old economy" company. The company expects its digital business to account for 45 percent of its revenues by 2005--up from 20 percent last year. But that message has been lost on investors, company executives have complained.

    While the company expects to see digital growth powered by commercial products such as health imaging and scanners, its consumer business, which includes digital cameras and Internet services, is taking longer to pull into the black. The company expects to break even on consumer products by 2002 as it battles to gain market share. Kodak trails Sony in digital camera sales, although it has been making gains.

    Carp's remarks today reinforced the company's commitment to digital products and services.

    The CEO said the theory behind the company's watermark is to allow the owner of an image to get reports of unauthorized usage. Music labels are considering a similar technology to trace illegally copied songs.

    Kodak also unveiled a multimedia technology that includes still and moving images as well as audio. For example, a digital photo album could include images captured with a camcorder or conversations that relate to a picture.

    Among the other technologies Kodak showcased were a system that attaches information such as names and email addresses to digital pictures, a technology that puts images on cell phones, and interactive 3D software.

    "The languages of the Web are still a digital Tower of Babel," Carp said. "I find it comforting to occasionally remind myself that this whole digital business is a science of simplification."

    Reuters contributed to this report.