DVD-audio copy-protection agreement reached

The arrival of DVD-Audio is one step closer, thanks to a copy-protection framework agreed upon by IBM, Intel, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic) and Toshiba.

The development of a copy-protection plan has been the last major obstacle to the production and release of commercial DVD-Audio products. The four companies -- together with music companies BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group -- have spent a year trying to reach agreement on a plan to protect digital audio content on DVD (digital video disk).

DVD-Audio is touted as the likely successor to CD as the foremost music-delivery medium. Its high capacity will allow it to store more music than CDs in higher-resolution multichannel sound, with additional multimedia content such as videos, images, song lyrics and World Wide Web links included.

The four technology companies chose watermark and encryption technologies to protect the music on DVD-Audio discs from piracy. In an attempt to satisfy audio enthusiasts who like to make copies of music they have purchased for use in automobiles or portable players, the companies agreed to allow the ability to make one copy per recorder -- and one copy only -- of each DVD-Audio disk.

The copy may be made for personal use with sound quality equal to that of a CD, or less, on recordable CD, MiniDisk or digital audio tape (DAT).

Major music companies have expressed concern about copy protection ever since DVD-Audio was first proposed. Today's announcement seems to have satisfied at least some of them.

"With the inclusion of newly created watermarking and encryption technologies, the DVD-Audio format successfully addresses one of Sony Music's key concerns: the protection of our artists' copyrights," said Al Smith, senior vice president of Sony Music, in a printed statement. "We want our artists' music to reach the widest possible audience, and we plan to make their music available on formats that provide proper copy protection."

Warner Music Group intends to release DVD-Audio titles later this year, a company official said in the statement.

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