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News in Brief

Germany's anti-piracy organisation (GVU) has just completed what may be one of the biggest ever operations against copyright thieves. Some 800 private apartments, company premises and computer centres were raided in Munich, Frankfurt, Bremen, Cologne and the Ruhr region over a three-day period, March 16-18. The GVU, which has been on the case for more than two years, said it had exposed the activities of two groups behind the illegal production and distribution of German versions of films including The Lord Of The Rings, Finding Nemo, The Passion Of The Christ, and Cheaper By The Dozen as well as the latest games software. The investigators seized 19 internet servers with 38 terabytes of memory to hold bootlegged films and software programmes, over 40,000 data carriers and more than 200 computer systems.

Director Oliver Stone has initially failed to halt the distribution in Spain of the DVD of Comandante, his documentary on Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator. In January, A preliminary injunction filed against co-producer MediaPro and Spanish distributor Manga Films alleged that the DVD distribution infringed Stone's moral author rights by including extras Stone had not agreed to. Stone claims the extras damaged the integrity of the film and Stone's reputation and right to control his image. A Madrid court rejected the preliminary injunction March 12. Stone plans to appeal.

Macrovision fourth quarter 2003 net revenues were a record $39.9 million, compared with $30.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2002, an increase of 32%. Net revenues for the full year of 2003 also set a record high, increasing to $128.3 million from $102.3 million for 2002, an increase of 26%. Pro forma earnings for 2003 were $37.8 million, 8% higher than the $35.1 million recorded in 2002. Pro forma diluted earnings per share for 2003 were $0.76, 10% higher than the comparable earnings per share of $0.69 last year.

At a press conference in Taiwan, Cheertek president Archie Yeh said his company has come up with a single-chip solution that integrates the functions of a DVD player and set-top box (STB). It is codenamed CTMan. The DVD/STB combo player, that can play DVDs and also receive digital video broadcasts (DVB), supports the DVB-S and DVB-T standards and a 256-color graphical user interface display. The chip also functions as a transport stream demultiplexer, TV encoder, DVD servo controller and MPEG-2 decoder, Yeh said. Products using the single-chip solution are in design-in stage at five IT makers in Taiwan and China, said Yeh, adding that Cheertek is expected to start volume shipments of the CTMan chips in May.

The Informa Media Group predicts that Sony will sell more than 30 million DVD-enabled PlayStation3s in Europe by 2010. It puts Microsoft in second place with 10 million sales and Nintendo trailing in third with five million. The new consoles, expected by 2005, could have up to 1,000 times more processing power than current models and emphasise online gaming.

Walt Disney Company signed an agreement with Microsoft to use its digital rights management system to protect its films and other media content. The software giant and the Disney media conglomerate have a multiyear agreement to co-operate on several long-term digital media initiatives to protect the security of digital content within the home and on Windows XP-based PCs as well as on a number of home and portable entertainment devices. The new system would enable purchasers of Disney content to move the product a limited number of times between different digital devices.

With Iran gearing up to become a major optical disc replicator, reports from Russia are surfacing that indicate that plans exist for the redevelopment of one nation's existing plants in an effort to match standards achieved in other major markets. Major international players such as Technicolor and Cinram have been approached by executives from Premier Multimedia, a video distributor that is a prove mover in the upgrade. They want to lock in some replication business from major content providers, including Hollywood studios. The Premier group already represent some major studio labels for video distribution in the region.

WorldLabel, a vendor of inkjet and laser printer labels, has uploaded to its web site a series of pdf-based templates for the quick creation of custom mailing and CD/DVD media labels. Visitors can download PDF label templates for a host of different media formats, including diskettes and many Avery-compatible sizes of mailing labels and even VHS video tapes.

Prism Leisure, a leading UK DVD distributor, appointed Simon Flamank Chief Executive of Prism Leisure Corporation plc. He has been with Prism for 2 years as Finance Director during which time the company has grown from a turnover of £37 million in 2001 to an annual turnover of £100 million in the current financial year. Prior to joining Prism, Simon was the Group Finance Director of the Telstar Entertainment Group plc and a Vice President of CIC Video International, the former joint venture video operation of Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures. Steve Winetroube becomes the new Finance Director of the company.

Philips’ new HDD/DVD personal video recorder is the first hard disc/DVD recorder with a built-in TV Guide on-screen Electronic Program Guide among other unique convenience features. Device holds more than 130 hours of television programs or up to eight hours on a DVD+R/+RW disc. Philips also has a television set featuring a wireless connection to the Internet and PCs, enabling it to play music and view pictures and video from the Web or computers.

The DVD Copy Control Association has dropped its case against a California man accused of misappropriating trade secrets by posting copies of the DeCSS programme, which overcomes DVD security technology. The DVD CCA has asked the California Superior Court to dismiss its complaint, citing an "evolving legal strategy." The group's action ends a four-year legal battle that pitted the media industry against technology companies and intellectual property experts. Some worried that a victory by the DVD CCA would outlaw practices, such as reverse engineering, which are vital to technological innovation and competition.

The following companies are elected as DVD Forum Steering Committee members effective February 25: Hitachi, IBM, Industrial Technology Research Institute, Intel, LG Electronics, Matsushita, Microsoft, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, NEC, Pioneer, Philips Electronics, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony Corporation, Thomson, Time Warner, Toshiba Corporation, Victor Company of Japan, Limited, Walt Disney.

Walter Murch, whose credits include Apocalypse Now and The English Patient, has a history of pushing editing tools as vigorously as he pursues a fluid cut. But he turned Hollywood industry heads by choosing to cut Cold Mountain — an $80 million picture — on Final Cut Pro and several off-the-shelf Power Mac G4s. It is an Oscar contender.

The DVD – and even DVD-R – player should no longer be considered the hot consumer electronics entertainment product, according to a survey of early adoptersin the US. ChangeWave Research, a firm that surveys high-paid executives and early adopters of the newest technologies for the purpose of making investment decisions, predicts slowing sales of DVD and DVD-R players during the next six months. Indeed, DVD players might have reached the market saturation point, and "in a confirmation of analysts' opinion at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, DVD-Rs appear like they'll do worse than expected," the ChangeWave report says. At the other end, expected to make a surge in sales are satellite radios, Wi-Fi routers, digital music players, digital video recorders and plasma TVs. Both desktop and laptop computers will be hot, too.

Digital Theater Systems has joined the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protections efforts to prevent unlicensed manufacturers’ fraudulent product importation into the US. DTS has recorded several of its trademarks with the US Customs Bureau. Move gives DTS the ability to assist Customs officials in the seizing and destruction of uncertified and unlicensed DTS product that is imported into the country.

Optodisc Technology, a major DVD disc manufacturer in Taiwan, will expand its monthly production capacity to between 28 million and 30 million discs in mid-2004 from 14 million discs currently. As the expanded capacity is still 35% short of order volume, the company will add 30 production lines. Optodisc will also adjust its production mix between DVD-R discs and DVD+RW/DVD-RW discs to 7:3 in the second half of this year from 6:4 currently.

The pervasive nature of DVD technology is stimulating a new breed of content provider in the UK. It's been reported locally that a lecture on images of the Resurrection of Christ in art by the Bishop of St Albans has been released on DVD and video. The Right Rev Christopher Herbert, who has delivered the lecture regularly in recent years, gives a 60-minute commentary supported by screen images of works of Christian art. Bishop's chaplain Andy Rooks said: "There has been a great deal of interest in the lecture. While the bishop continues to offer it live, the DVD and video allow a much wider audience to benefit from his insights." Many of the works featured are in London's National Gallery, such as Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini portrait, Ugolini's The Deposition and Dieric Bouts' The Entombment.

DaTarius Technologies appointed Allen Pabst as product manager for Optimization Products & Services with responsibilities for the Americas.

Sanyo said it aims to more than double capacity for DVD recorder optical pickups to 35 million
in the year to March 2005 from the current 15 million. To meet surging demand for DVD recorders for both business and entertainment use, Japan's third-largest consumer electronics maker will start production of optical pickups for audio-video recorders in the coming fiscal year in addition to those for information technology and DVD players that it already produces. Sanyo's optical pickup business arm, which claims to hold a 40 percent global market share, projects sales in the current year will show double-digit growth from 115.7 billion yen in the year to March 2003, which in turn were up 135% from a year earlier.

U-Tech Media plans to expand production capacity to 21.5 million units per month and is seeking to become the largest pre-recorded DVD disc maker in Taiwan in the second half of this year. In Taiwan, the company will soon expand monthly capacity to 15 million units, up from 10 million last year. The factory produces movie DVDs for markets in Regions 1 through 5. In South Korea, U-Tech expects its monthly capacity to rise from an initial 2 million discs when it completes construction of a factory in May to 4 million later this year. In Australia, the company will expand monthly capacity to 2.5 million discs in the second half of this year. U-Tech makes movie DVDs for seven of the world’s top eight movie makers for Region 3 and some markets in Region 4.

Belgium-based PIMC, one of the longest established independent DVD studios in Europe have recently completed work on its 1000th DVD disc. One thousand discs represents over 100,000 minutes of DVD encoding. The PIMCs team originally cut its teeth on over 800 Video CD and CDi titles during their time as part of the Philips. Cliff Oxlade, Operations Director for the UK office revealed that PIMC is currently looking at moving a number of their DVD creative team to their London office to continue the success that the Paris studio has seen since it opened its doors early this year.

Following an invitation by the European Commission to raise any concerns they may have, expect UK record company EMI among others to file objections to the proposed joint venture by Sony BMG to form a huge music conglomerate. Impala, a trade association representing 2,000 independent record labels, have met EC officials to object to the proposed deal on the grounds of collective dominance – citing the Commission's previous objections to the aborted merger three years ago of Warner Music and EMI.