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  • [6.1] Who invented DVD and who owns it? Whom to contact for specifications and licensing?

    DVD is the work of many companies and many people. DVD evolved from CD and related technologies. Some of the early proposals for "high-density CD" were made in 1993, and these efforts gradually coalesced into two competing proposed formats. The MMCD format was backed by Sony, Philips, and others. The SD format was backed by Toshiba, Matsushita, Time Warner, and others. A group of computer companies led by IBM insisted that the factions agree on a single standard. The combined DVD format was announced in September of 1995, avoiding a confusing and costly repeat of the VHS vs. Betamax videotape battle or the quadraphonic sound battle of the 1970s.

    No single company "owns" DVD. The official specification was developed by a consortium of ten companies: Hitachi, JVC, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Sony, Thomson, Time Warner, and Toshiba. Representatives from many other companies also contributed in various working groups. In May 1997, the DVD Consortium was replaced by the DVD Forum , which is open to all companies, and as of February 2000 had over 220 members. Time Warner originally trademarked the DVD logo, and has since assigned it to the DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation (DVD FLLC). The written term "DVD" is too common to be trademarked or owned. See section 6.2 and visit Robert's DVD Info page for links to Web sites of companies working with DVD.

    The official DVD specification books are available after signing a nondisclosure agreement and paying a $5,000 fee. One book is included in the initial fee; additional books are $500 each. Manufacture of DVD products and use of the DVD logo for non-promotional purposes requires additional format and logo licenses, for a one-time fee of $10,000 per format, minus $5,000 if you have already paid for the specification. (E.g., a DVD-Video player manufacturer must license DVD-ROM and DVD-Video for $20,000, or $15,000 if they have the spec.) Contact DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation (DVD FLLC), Shiba Shimizu Building 5F, Shiba-daimon 2-3-11, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0012, tel: +81-3-5777-2881, fax: +81-3-5777-2882. Before April 14, 2000, logo/format licensing was administered by Toshiba.

    ECMA has developed international standards for DVD-ROM (part 1, the smallest part of the DVD spec), available for free download as ECMA-267 and ECMA-268 from http://www.ecma-international.org/ . ECMA has also standardized DVD-R in ECMA-279 , DVD-RAM in ECMA-272 and ECMA-273 , and DVD+RW as ECMA-274 (see 4.3 ). Unfortunately, ECMA has the annoying habit of spelling "disc" wrong. Also confusing, if you're not from Europe, is ECMA's use of a comma instead of a period for the decimal point.

    The specification for the UDF file system used by DVD is available from http://www.osta.org/ .

    Many technical details of the DVD-Video format are available at the DVD-Video Information page.

    Any company making DVD products must license essential technology patents from the " 3C ' pool (LG, Philips, Pioneer, Sony: 3.5% per player/drive, minimum $3.50; additional $0.75 for Video CD compatibility; 5 cents per disc), the " 6C " pool (Hitachi, IBM, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Time Warner, Toshiba, Victor: 4% per player/drive, minimum $4; 4% per "DVD Video decoder", minimum $1; 7.5 cents per disc) and from Thomson (~$1 per player/drive). Patent royalties may also be owed to Discovision Associates , which owns about 1300 optical disc patents (usually paid by the replicator).

    The licensor of CSS encryption technology is DVD CCA (Copy Control Association), a non-profit trade association with offices at 225 B Cochrane Circle, Morgan Hill, CA. There is a $15,000 annual licensing fee, but no per-product royalties. Send license requests to css-license@lmicp.com , technical info requests to css-info@lmicp.com . Before December 15, 1999, CSS licensing was administered on an interim basis by Matsushita.

    Macrovision licenses its analog anti-recording technology to hardware makers. There is a $30,000 initial charge, with a $15,000 yearly renewal fee. The fees support certification of players to ensure widest compatibility with televisions. There are no royalty charges for player manufacturers. Macrovision charges a royalty to content publishers (approximately 4 to 10 cents per disc, compared to 2 to 5 cents for a VHS tape).

    Dolby licenses Dolby Digital decoders for approximately $0.26 per channel. Philips, on behalf of CCETT and IRT, also charges $0.20 per channel (maximum of $0.60 per player) for Dolby Digital patents, along with $0.003 per disc. Dolby also licenses 2-channel Dolby Digital encoders.

    Dolby licenses MLP decoders for DVD-Audio players.

    An MPEG-2 patent license is required from MPEG LA (MPEG Licensing Adminstrator). Cost is $2.50 for a DVD player or decoder card and 4 cents for each DVD disc, although there seems to be disagreement on whether content producers owe royalties for discs.

    Many DVD players are also Video CD (VCD) players. Philips licenses the Video CD format and patents on behalf of themselves, Sony, JVC, Matsushita, CNETT, and IRT for $25,000 initial payment plus royalties of 2.5% per player or $2.50 minimum.

    Nissim claims 25 cents per player and 78/100ths of a cent for parental management and other DVD-related patents.

    Various licensing fees add up to over $20 in royalties for a $200 DVD player, and about $0.20 per disc. Disc royalties are paid by the replicator.

    Royalties for DVD+R patents are charged by Philips (approximately $0.06 per disc) and Sony (1.5 to 3.5% of disc price).

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