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Some experts believe that this kind of “seek and destroy” approach may find a niche in the anti-piracy market. “You’re going to see that [the Motion Picture Association of America] demands these types of things in theatres in the next few years,” says Delp.

In fact, the film industry is looking at many different technologies to thwart people trying to record movies for bootlegging, says Brad Hunt, chief technology officer of the MPAA. “Camcorder piracy is a large problem for the industry, so we’ve been talking to a number of companies that have been developing anti-camcorder technologies,” he says. “And the camcorder jamming technologies are the most interesting.”

Delp also points out that the Georgia Tech team faces stiff competition, though, from other companies who have tackled the problem using similar approaches – as well as a potential intellectual property issue. Apogen Technologies, a defense contractor, has developed a camcorder detection technology called PirateEye, and has also been working with the MPAA. Apogen’s technology, says Greg Mooradian, the company’s chief technology officer, is very similar to the Georgia Tech prototype. Although the two systems differ in the wavelength of light used to detect and jam, the technologies are similar enough that Apogen’s patent counsel will be contacting the Georgia Tech team, he says.

To address these legal issues, Georgia Tech has hired a law firm to conduct a patent search, and a provisional patent was filed on the technology last October, Abowd says. The researchers are currently raising money for a startup based on their technology, and, if all goes well, they think they could deploy the technology within a few years for as little as a couple hundred dollars.

The group has already had preliminary discussions with the MPAA, says the association’s Hunt, who believes they’re on the right track. “I think the most intriguing thing about this type of approach – the jamming approach – is that it doesn’t require an enforcement effort,” he says, such as using an official to confiscate the camcorder. “It destroys the commercial value [of the bootlegged video] without disrupting the audience.”

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