You Can Listen, But Don't Touch

Audiophiles have been hit hard lately, as DVD-Audio's release schedule has succumbed to piracy concerns and Sony has so far refused to allow digital outputs on SACD decks. (Only digital outs for CD playback are allowed.) You can listen, but don't touch. But at least there are still no such restrictions on CD players that would inhibit the use of their digital datastreams . . . for now.

TTR Technologies and Macrovision hope to change all that. Last week they announced an agreement to jointly develop and market a copy-protection product designed to thwart the copying of optical audio media (audio CDs, DVDs, etc.). The companies say the new product will be based on TTR's MusicGuard technology, and on related Macrovision technology intended to inhibit what the companies call "casual copying" of music CDs using dual-deck CD recorder systems and PC-based CD-Recordable drives.

As part of the new relationship between the two companies, Macrovision says it will purchase, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, an 11.4% equity interest in TTR. On making the equity investment, Macrovision claims it will also acquire an exclusive license to TTR's CD and DVD signature technology, and related encoder software used to embed signatures during the replication process.

Macrovision's John Ryan states that "this agreement allows Macrovision to leverage its existing CD copy-protection technology base and more than a decade of experience in developing and marketing copy-protection solutions to the home video and multimedia software industries, to address important problems currently being faced by the music industry on a worldwide basis. This partnership will take advantage of the collective skills, patents, and expertise of our two companies, and should enable us to deliver a commercially viable music-CD copy-protection system to the music industry." TTR chairman Marc Tokayer adds that "TTR's promising new music-protection technology and Macrovision's sales and marketing ability in the global copy-protection markets are a great combination for success . . . and will be a good combination to drive widespread deployment of the resulting system."

Macrovision will be responsible for licensing the technology to music-rights owners worldwide. The companies also say that they intend to work cooperatively with encoder manufacturers and CD replicators to implement the necessary manufacturing and quality-control systems.

"Digital signatures are a critical element of both Macrovision's and TTR's computer-software copy-protection systems," says Macrovision. "In addition to the copying threat already posed by professional pirates and unauthorized Internet websites, inexpensive CD-recording technology now allows PC owners with just basic computer skills to make replicas of any music CD for the price of a blank disc."