Films altered to foil camcorder pirates

Monday, 21 April 2003, 9:55 AM EST

The problem is that the pirates are adopting ever more sophisticated technology, using tiny camcorders in purses and digital recorders about the size of a fountain pen.

Some handheld computers "have an attachment that can record up to 122 minutes," said Jeffrey Godsick, executive vice president of marketing at 20th Century Fox. "Well, that's a whole movie in many cases. You can take the attachment and run it through a small hole in a tie or a shirt."

This is big business. The Motion Picture Association of America estimates studios lose more than $3 billion per year from piracy in various forms. So the movie industry is trying to fight back with a high-tech solution of its own.

Cinea LLC, which created an encryption system for DVDs, and Sarnoff, a technology research firm, are developing a system to modulate the light cast on a movie screen to create a flicker or other patterns that would be picked up by recording devices, making the resulting images unwatchable. The disruptive flickers would be unseen by the human eye in the movie theater.

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