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Macrovision Aims To Stop DVD Rippers

By John P. Mello Jr.
Feb 15, 2005 8:07 AM PT

Macrovision, the company whose name became a synonym for copy-protection of VHS movies, today announced a technology to thwart rippers of DVDs.

Macrovision Aims To Stop DVD Rippers

The technology, called RipGuard DVD, is the first product to be verified through a new program offered by THX, a San Rafael, California, provider of quality assurance services for the entertainment industry.

"We have come up with a format-based technology that uses a unique digital framework per title, and it stops these rippers cold," Adam Gervin, senior marketing director for Macrovision's Entertainment Technologies Group, told TechNewsWorld.

97 Percent Effective

"We've done a lot of research on the market share of rippers," he continued. "We think we've got more data than anyone else in the world on this. And we know that RipGuard DVD is effective today against 97 percent of the rippers in use in the market."

"Since studios are losing over a billion dollars a year as a result of these rippers, we believe that we can prevent 97 percent of that revenue loss through RipGuard DVD," he added.

Efforts by TechNewsWorld to reach the Motion Picture Association of America for comment on RipGuard were unavailing.

Crashes Rippers

Gervin explained that RipGuard causes ripper software to crash or stall, thus preventing it from copying the content of a DVD.

Similar schemes have been used for music CDs with mixed results. In some cases, protected CDs wouldn't play in some CD players, which caused a consumer uproar in Europe and slowed to a dribble the introduction of protected discs into the United States.

Acutely aware of past copy-protection debacles, Macrovision chose to have an independent authority, THX, verify that RipGuard wouldn't interfere with a DVD movie's quality or performance.

Compelling Consumer Value

"We believe that the best way to fight piracy is to create compelling consumer value," Steve Weinstein, Macrovision executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement. "In developing RipGuard DVD, we turned to THX as a noted industry expert to ensure that RipGuard DVD delivers the ultimate consumer experience, while protecting the digital content of the video producers."

In the same statement, Sheau Ng, chief technical officer of THX, noted, "THX Digital Works performed compatibility and performance quality testing of RipGuard DVD titles, which revealed no degradation of the digital audio and video when compared with the original material."

John Hallman, THX director of strategic planning, told TechNewsWorld that RipGuard is the first product verified by the company's lab. "We've been doing this work internally for quite some time," he explained.

"Making it a program made sense at this time based on the work with Macrovision. We envision that 'THX Verified' will be a program that we extend to a number of different areas, especially as it relates to the audio-video quality from digital cinema to the home theater," Hallman said.

Mauling or Motivating Pirates?

Implementing a "lockdown" approach like RipGuard -- in which all copying is taboo -- could encourage DVD piracy by forcing consumers with legitimate needs for DVD copies to meet those needs through pirate networks or illegal ripping tools.

"The movie industry is more interested in stopping the illegal copying of movies than they are interested in allowing legal copying," Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group in San Jose, California, told TechNewsWorld. "As long as they stay that way, they're going to fuel a market of folks [who] illegally copy movies."

As long as a DVD plays normally, copy protection won't be an issue for the average consumer, asserted Ted Schadler, a principal analyst at Forrester Research in Boston.

"You're never going to prevent hard core pirates from ripping," he told TechNewsWorld. "That's just impossible. What you try to do is make it less than just a simple nuisance factor, because if it's a nuisance factor, a lot of would-be honest people will steal it. It's that ten dollar bill on the sidewalk. People are going to pick it up."

Tougher Protection in Wings

RipGuard is just the start of tough protection for DVDs. With the introduction of high-definition DVDs, copy-protection will get tougher yet, observed Ross Rubin, director for industry analysis for the NPD Group in Port Washington, New York.

"One of the key features of the next generation of DVDs is very strong encryption," he told TechNewsWorld. "Blu-ray, for example, uses very, very strong encryption with a code that changes for every six minutes of video. Even if someone were able to crack one of the codes, it would only unlock a small part of the film."

"High definition is really the battleground," he said, "because, even though the standard definition market will be larger for several years, the high definition DVDs come very close to, if not equaling, the film experience. So in a sense, Hollywood is risking putting its crown jewels out there, so they want to ensure that those assets are protected."

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