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Electronic Media, Friday, March 16, 11:50 a.m. (PT); updated 4:30 p.m.


Sony, Warner Bros. near deal with 5C manufacturers


Sony and Warner Bros. are only weeks away from signing a deal with Intel and four Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers—the so-called 5C companies—on an agreement to protect digital programming on cable and satellite from unauthorized copying and illegal retransmission on the Internet.


But ABC owner The Walt Disney Co., News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox—sister to the Fox TV network—Universal, Paramount and MGM have balked at signing. Disney and Fox in particular are concerned the agreement does not protect digital television signals broadcast over the air to viewers. The 5C companies say they don’t have the technology to do that. The manufacturers insist the agreement at least protects digital TV signals offered on cable and satellite if the programming is encrypted.


Disney and Fox say that option is expensive and will force existing DTV set owners to add decryption devices. The holdout studios prefer so-called watermarking technology, i.e. digital codes, added to programming to prevent copying, but that approach requires more research and design work.


“We still have no resolution on copyright protection for broadcast programming. I do not want the transition to digital television to mean the end of quality, free over-the-air programming,†said House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., at a March 15 hearing on DTV issues.


Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., is pleased with the progress so far. He said if all the studios sign the deal, digital TV signals would be protected in the 85 percent of U.S. homes that subscribe to cable or satellite TV. He acknowledged that DTV signals beamed over the air would be vulnerable to unauthorized copying.
 
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