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Watermark Selected For DVD-Audio, SDMI

A digital watermarking technology developed by Aris Technologies was selected by separate industry groups for inclusion in the DVD-Audio specifications and in the voluntary Phase 1 portable-device standard developed by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI).

The selection was made by SDMI and by the 4C group of companies developing the copyright-protection standards for the DVD-Audio format. The 4C companies -- IBM, Intel, Matsushita and Toshiba -- conducted tests to determine the technologies' robustness and whether the music-embedded watermark would be inaudible. Listening tests conducted with unnamed "golden ears" determined that the watermark is inaudible, SDMI claimed.

The watermark will be optional on DVD-Audio discs and will carry rules to control copying. To date, only one company, Panasonic, has committed to DVD-A/V player sales this year. It plans October shipments of a Panasonic-branded model and a Technics model. Software availability in the fourth quarter is expected to be limited.

SDMI intends to use the Aris technology for the Phase 1 screening function in compliant portable devices that use solid-state memory to store digital music downloaded from the Internet or copied from packaged media. The screen will detect and block copying of watermarked music and prompt consumers to upgrade their software to Phase 2 software that will copy and play back watermarked songs.

Watermarked music will become available sometime after March 2000, when the initiative plans an initial public review of Phase 2 specifications.

Phase 2 will specify a digital watermark technology that contains copy-control instructions that have yet to be defined. Aris and an SDMI spokeswoman agreed that a separate selection process will be conducted for the Phase 2 watermark.

Not all portable digital players set to reach the market in coming months will be SDMI-compliant, at least not during their initial production runs.

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