Vivendi, Thomson Fight Digital Pirates

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Vivendi Universal and Thomson Multimedia became the latest companies to jump
into the anti-piracy technology pool.

Melding Vivendi's media resources to Thomson's consumer-electronics base, the
two French companies announced that they are joining forces to develop
protection tools that will shield video-on-demand, broadband, broadcast and DVD
content from digital piracy.

The two companies will also work with standards bodies and try to convince
other digital-media-technology companies to create interoperable
digital-rights-protection standards.

Vivendi estimated that the resulting technology systems could save it $50
million in yearly business costs, while Thomson estimated that its potential
cost savings could total more than $500 million annually.

Vivendi and Thomson have been in discussions about such a partnership since
July.

The partnership will focus on three areas of technology. In copy protection,
the two companies will work together and with standards bodies to create
protection technology -- something of a novelty, given the fact that content
providers and device makers are often at odds over limiting access to digital
content.

The second area will be broadband-access products. Thomson and Vivendi will
work together on existing and new generations of decoders for Vivendi's Canal
Plus Satellite service in France, with Thomson a preferred digital-box
supplier.

Finally, the pair will concentrate on video services. Thomson' Technicolor
division will be Vivendi's preferred supplier for video postproduction, films
and packaged-media services, and the two companies will test new VOD
technologies.

'It is critical that two French companies tie together to strengthen their
positions on global markets, particularly for the promotion of digital
technologies that respect intellectual-property protection,' Vivendi chairman
and CEO Jean-Marie Messier said in a release.

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