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Sonic Unveils Anti-Copying Technology For Movies Burned To DVDs

Besides online burn-to-DVD services, Sonic Solutions believes its technology will be useful to companies planning to offer in-store movie kiosks where a consumer could go to get a copy of a movie not available on the shelves.
Sonic Solutions unveiled copy-protection technology designed to prevent illegal copying of movies downloaded from the Internet and burned to DVD.

Sonic, based in Novato, Calif., said Thursday the Qflix technology will be available in the first half of the year to manufacturers of home computers and digital video recorders. The company plans to launch a licensing and certification program that would place the Qflix brand on devices, discs and download services supporting the technology.

Full-length movies available on the Web for burning to DVDs remain scarce, in part, because of Hollywood's fear of piracy. However, such Web services could help boost DVD sales, because it would make it possible for people to watch the movies on their TVs, a vehicle most consumers prefer to the smaller screens of their computers.

Sonic's technology would provide the same protection found on store-bought discs to those used to copy movies, Jim Taylor, senior vice president and general manager of Sonic's advanced technology group, said. This is accomplished by recording the DVD with the same Content Scramble System, the encryption method used in commercial production. "A legitimate download and burn solution that gives studios the same protection as prepackaged titles could make a big difference in what they make available online to consumers," Taylor said.

CSS prevents copying of store-bought DVDs, but it isn't foolproof. Hackers have managed to break the system at times by developing decryption software.

For the Sonic technology to work, it would need to be in the video recorder, and the consumer would have to buy supporting DVDs. Along with encrypting the content, Sonic's software would also copy over the original digital rights management technology contained in the downloaded file, so that terms of use could be carried over. For example, a movie service provider could allow the movie to be copied a set number of times.

While falling short of a full endorsement, Warner Bros. Entertainment said in a statement that it was "pleased and encouraged to see efforts like Sonic's creation of Qflix that address the need for industry-standard protection."

Besides online burn-to-DVD services, Sonic believes its technology, which has taken three years to develop, would be useful to companies planning to offer in-store movie kiosks where a consumer could go to get a copy of a movie not available on the shelves.

Companies that have agreed to license Sonic's technology include DVD drive manufacturer Plextor, Mitsubishi Kagaku Media (MKM)/Verbatim, which makes optical discs for recording high-definition content; kiosk makers Lucidiom and Polar Frog Digital; online move service Movielink; Walgreens drugstore chain; and others.

Sonic plans to demonstrate its technology next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev.