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Technicolor Develops Digital Authentication Tools

Posted by iTech - 2006-04-07

Technicolor has developed authentication and authorization prototypes, and has entered into discussions with movie studios and distributors to bring the technology to market, an executive said Tuesday.

The technologies are pieces in a core set of products that will expand consumer choices on how, when and where they can download and watch movies, television shows and other digital content.

Consumers want the ability to watch movies on the road while traveling or in their bedroom and living room. "I can see the technology in the market this year," said Joe Berchtold, Technicolor Electronic Distribution Services president. "It really depends, however, on moving both the movie studios and the distributors to this technology at the same pace."

The authentication and authorization technology works with digital rights management (DRM) systems, enabling movie studios and distributors to add other types of "commercial transactions" for consumers.

Today, DRM restricts the movement of content. Berchtold said if you download "Rent" from CinemaNow or Movielink to rent, after 24 hours the DRM software in the digital file won't allow the consumer to watch it again or move it to a portable device.

With Technicolor's authentication and authorization technology, for example, studios and distributors could build applications that let consumers rent a movie and re-watch it or move to a portable device for a small fee.

The technology aims to complement services introduced by CinemaNow Inc. and Movielink LLC on Monday. Both launched digital movie download services to sell full-length feature blockbusters on the Web.

CinemaNow and Movielink download platform built on Microsoft products notably excludes Apple Computer Inc. consumers from the service. The movie files use the Windows Media format to play.

Thomson, Technicolor's parent company, along with Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc. through the joint venture ContentGuard, is working to enable digital rights management interoperability between devices, said Pascal Marie, vice president of strategic marketing at Thomson.

ContentGuard, primarily an intellectual property company, works to develop technologies that enable interoperability, such as getting DRM systems to communicate, allowing content to move between devices.

Mark Cuban, co-owner in Landmark Theaters, HDNet Films, 2929 Entertainment Co., and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, offered in an e-mail a pearl of wisdom, "Studios are just recently getting comfortable with DRM on downloads, and I think more importantly, comfortable with the fact they don't want to repeat the mistakes of the music industry."

Ironically, both Berchtold and Marie said delivering digital content online provides tighter security than standard definitions DVDs, Marie said. DVDs available in stores today are easily decrypted with DeCSS utilities downloaded from the Web, compressed with XviD, an open-source application and DivX software codec, and then pushed throughout the world on P2P networks.

HD DVD and Blu-ray rewritable disks, however, are expected to provide additional copyright protection.

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