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IBM, NEC to secure DVD

Eyeing the need to safeguard movies, the duo will work together to establish the first copyright protection standard for DVD.

IBM and NEC today announced they are working together to establish the first copyright protection standard for DVD (digital versatile disc), the high-capacity medium that's beginning to replace the CD.

The two plan to integrate their respective "watermark" technologies and present a standard to the Copyright Protection Technical Working Group, the companies said in a prepared statement. Digital watermarks, hidden between pixels so as to remain all but invisible to the eye, provide copyright information and work with play control technology to enable (or block) playback or copying.

DVD discs are the size of CDs but have nearly six times the storage capacity. They are widely expected to be the next medium for viewing movies at home.

Unfortunately, at the moment they are also fairly easy to pirate, said Jim Porter, editor of DiskTrend magazine. DVD piracy occurs predominantly in Asian and South American countries where copyright laws are not strictly enforced, he said.

"The smart computer type can copy anything," Porter noted. "Presumably, [with watermarks] they could start catching these things."

The goal of the joint effort, the two companies said, is the production of new DVD players that will be able to authenticate watermarked DVD discs.

An effective watermark technology would encourage movie studios to release their content in DVD format, said Mary Bourdon, an analyst at Dataquest. "The movie studios are paranoid about releasing the big movie hits, and are straddling between DVD and Divx," a limited-use version of DVD that's been highly unpopular with some consumers.