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3/2/2006
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Thomson To Deliver Hollywood Digital Piracy Platform

NexGuard, a suite of four applications, encrypts, decrypts, watermarks, and controls access to digital content.

French media and entertainment company Thomson is making plans to unveil the first suite of its digital rights and content management software in April at a National Association of Broadcasters conference, company executives said Thursday.

NexGuard, a suite of four applications, encrypts, decrypts, watermarks and controls access to digital content to protect against piracy. The forensic data applications allow users to manage and securely store transfer and view digital content, such as production dailies, postproduction content, digital intermediates, feature film and broadcast digital masters, digital cinema releases and DVD screeners.

The enterprise platform allows post-production houses, animation and movie studios, and special effects companies to manage geographically disbursed computer systems from one location to ease work flows. "The product suite maintains a central database that tracks and manages unique watermarks and associates the values by monitoring who accesses the content with what equipment," said Perry Weinstein, director at Thomson Content Security.

Thomson's watermarking technology embeds an invisible forensic mark in every frame. The NexGuard Viewer decrypts the video, watermarks the video packets, and decodes and renders the file. Jean-Marc Boucqueau, Thomson security product line manager, said this prevents pirates from gaining access to a clear copy of the content.

A content signature identification service in the application suite combats the illegal flow of entertainment titles on the Internet. A Web crawler automatically searches for pirated content based on watermarks and signatures. The software monitors Internet traffic, peer-to-peer networks, and even videos and DVDs sold on sites, such as eBay Inc.

Authentication rights also are possible. NexGuard Token Manager works similar to a flash memory stick. The portable drive stick plugs into any computer's USB port running NexGuard to authenticate the user and provide an electronic signature.

Embedded in the drive a SIMM card, similar to those in a mobile phone, authenticates the user and provides access to the media content. "If a stick is lost we can make it unusable by propagating a message that the certificate inside the stick is no longer authorized to access content," Boucqueau said. "If I am a company in Belgium and an employee has lost their stick, it takes only a few clicks on the token management system and the stick is no longer usable."

Combining cryptology and watermarking, studios, such as 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros, can feel more secure when transmitting media to special effects houses, such as Industrial Light & Magic or animators, such as DreamWorks Animation.

When the content arrives, artists plug the personalized USB stick into the computer to unlock the content. Cryptographic perimeters embedded in the drive identify the person and the company accessing the media.

The product suite, written mostly in C and C++ with a Java interface, easily integrates into platforms from Avid Technology Inc. or Grass Valley, a Thomson company.

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