The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) hopes new security measures embedded in films will help prevent widespread piracy.
Cinea LLC, creators of an encryption system for DVDs, and Sarnoff, a technology research firm, are developing a new filming method that will regulate the light cast on a movie screen to create a flicker or pattern that would make recorded movies unwatchable.
The regulation of light would only be picked up by video cameras and would remain invisible to the human eye.
Researchers who used a flicker method that imposed words on film found that it was not disruptive enough for pirates who can edit it out.
This new “forensic watermark” system can only be used by digital projectors, which are not widespread.
Though these projectors are not currently used in a majority of theaters, it is believed that most will convert to digital by the end of the decade.
This new technology takes advantage of the differences in how humans and recording devices register images.
One of the differences, for example, is the fact that monitors operate by constantly refreshing an image with bars that travel across the screen to keep the image fresh.
Recent advances in recording technology have led the movie industry to seek a way to protect studios from pirates.
Anti-piracy attempts by the industry, such as sending enforcers into theaters with night-vision goggles and placing metal detectors outside advance screening rooms, have had minimal impact.
Stopping pirates has become a difficult task because they are adopting more sophisticated technology, using tiny camcorders in purses and digital recorders about the size of a fountain pen, for example.
According to MPAA estimates, movie studios lose more than $3 billion a year due to piracy.
Though the measures may help to prevent illegal copying, this development comes with a problem.
Researchers have found that encoding movies with this technology could induce seizures in some people because of rapid light flicker.
This problem may push the project into further development, or it could be released into theaters with the hope that it may not affect a large percentage of the population.
The project is being funded by a $2-million grant from the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a government agency.
Ending piracy has always been a major concern, especially for the recording and gaming industries.
Industry experts have always sought methods for ending piracy but have usually been outdone by pirates who find ways to circumvent their new measures.
Only time will tell if the MPAA’s efforts may be a significant step toward the struggle to end piracy. These measures could also serve only as a temporary barrier for tech-savvy individuals who thrive from the business of piracy.