"The goal of the Digital Policy Group is to move forward with a triple win--for content, for hardware, and for viewers," Berke said in a statement.
Digital technology has raised vexing strategy issues for Sony Pictures parent Sony, which straddles both consumer electronics and media, two industries that have increasinglywith the arrival of potent new consumer devices that threaten copyrights.
Electronics manufacturers have embraced digital media as an opportunity to increase the value of their products and create whole new categories such as MP3 players, CD burners and PVRs (personal video recorders). Movie studios and record labels, meanwhile, have recoiled at the thought that large numbers of consumers may never have to pay for their products again.
Ground zero in this battle is the emerging field of digital rights management (DRM),that aims to prevent unauthorized use of copyrighted material.
Major technology companies including Microsoft, IBM and Hitachi are throwing weight behind DRM to make it an effective deterrent to piracy without detracting from the digital media experience from the point of view of consumers.
Sony recently expanded its presence in this field, acquiring assets from DRM provider InterTrust Technologies in a $453 million deal with Philips Electronics. The deal could give InterTrust a boost in a high-stakes patent dispute with Microsoft over DRM technology, a core feature in the software giant's Windows Media product line.
At the same time, a legislative battle has ensued as U.S. lawmakers and regulators--largely at the behest of the media industry--weigh proposals that would force hardware makers to include copy controls in their products. Such proposals could affect products ranging fromto the Internet to and PVRs, and could curtail popular features.
Such bills are opposed by technology providers, which generally support voluntary DRM but say government mandates could force them to adopt bad solutions.
The DRM field is still in its infancy, with notable failures to date. In 1999, programmers defeated the CSS (Content Scrambling System) copy protection standard used on most DVDs, sparking protractedto prevent online publication of the key, known as DeCSS. In addition, a music industry initiative to create a digital watermark standard suffered a major setback when its proposed technology was by academics in the final testing phase.
A version of Microsoft's Windows Media DRM was alsolast year.