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Dolby Acquires Virginia Digital Content Protection Firm

Dolby Laboratories has acquired Cinea, a Herndon, Va.-based start-up content protection and anti-piracy company which is developing technology to prevent piracy of motion pictures via illegal camcorder recordings. Cinea's prototype distorts unauthorized recordings of digitally projected movies without affecting human visual perception of the original version.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Cinea CEO and founder Robert Schumann becomes head of the new Dolby subsidiary, reporting to Tim Partridge, VP for the Professional Division of Dolby Laboratories.

Cinea was founded in 1999 to develop and commercialize a broad variety of content protection solutions for markets that include digital cinema, in-flight entertainment, high-definition DVD, and video on demand. Most of Cinea's staff previously formed the senior technical and operating team for Digital Video Express, a Circuit City subsidiary that implemented a highly secure DVD-based delivery system.

"Content is increasingly being delivered digitally, and unauthorized use of digital content can have serious consequences for the content owner. Content protection has thus become an ever more important element in enabling the delivery of high-quality entertainment," said Tim Partridge, a vice president for the San Francisco-based Dolby. "Our studio customers have made it clear that piracy is the most important problem they face today."

Cinea's technology modifies the timing and modulation of the light used to create displayed images such that the frame-based capture by recording devices is distorted. Cinea said its technologies are initially targeted for the emerging digital cinema market.

The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that the film industry loses $3.5 billion annually due to piracy. A large proportion of that loss is attributable to professional pirates using camcorders to illegally record movies shown in theaters and duplicating copies for resale throughout the world.