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Widevine Gets Internet Video Patent

Widevine Technologies Inc. says it's been awarded a patent for software that detects the piracy of content delivered over the open Internet to PCs. (See Widevine Awarded Patent.)

The Widevine software may prove an important piece of intellectual property as Internet video grows and piracy concerns grow with it.

Widevine CEO Brian Baker says the patented technology protects a copyrighted content stream from being recorded inside the PC after the content has been decrypted and before it's been played.

"When it's been decrypted somebody can use one of a hundred utilities inside the PC to record that stream," Baker says. This vulnerable state is called the "digital hole." (See Survey: Internet Video Content and Will Video Kill the DRM Stars?.)

Widevine says the technology is an extension of its existing Cypher conditional access (CA) product. It is a PC-based software application that is delivered to the customer via a download. (See Widevine Watermarks Devices.)

Widevine spokeswoman Barbara Leavitt says the technology is especially relevant now that YouTube and sites like it are so wildly popular. Such sites are magnets for pirated content like segments from NBC's Saturday Night Live. (See Google: 'Yeah, We Might Get Sued'.)

How does the Widevine software know which video streams to protect? Baker says a piece of NBC video content contains a "mark" in its metadata that identifies it as copyright protected. When the Widevine software detects that mark, and certain tell-tale signs that the PC is trying to record the content bearing it, it notifies the content owner and works to prevent the recording of the stream.

Widevine might find plenty of takers for the technology. Both the original copyright owner and an Internet video content "host" like YouTube have a clear interest in detecting piracy. The owner's rights are being violated, while the host is, wittingly or unwittingly, acting as an accessory to a crime.

The new patent, U.S. 7,150,045, is the sixth awarded to Widevine. (See Widevine Awarded DRM Patent.) Widevine says it has more than 45 U.S. patents still pending.

Baker says Widevine is the only software-downloadable security provider that owns the intellectual property under its products. On that basis Baker believes his company controls its own fate, and issues a warning to its competitors:

"We have competitors that are out there selling product without a single patent to their name, not a single one. It's just a matter of time before our investors say 'OK you've got enough patents under your belt, let's start suing people'."

"We intend to make it very difficult for anybody without the proper IP to operate in this space, certainly not without a license to ours," Baker says.

Widevine's competitor Verimatrix Inc. says it offers techniques to protect content through advanced encryption and key management plus a (patent-pending) VideoMark "user-specific forensic watermarking" technology. "VideoMark is a tool to fight content piracy that is effective in both the digital and the analog domains. Our approach extends the perimeter of content security beyond the digital network," says Verimatrix marketing VP Steve Christian in a note to Light Reading.

Seattle-based Widevine is privately held and venture backed. Its investors include Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T), and Charter Venture Capital , among others. (See Cisco Fertilizes Widevine.)

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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