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Fox trots towards Blu-ray

No commitment, but heavy involvement augers well for standard

Twentieth Century Fox Film has joined the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), but the Hollywood film studio has stopped short of committing to releasing its movies on the Blu-ray disc format.

"We are not ready at this time to commit any of our content to this format," said Michael O'Neill, special advisor at the company's Fox Technology Group.

Fox has become a member of the association to study the format and develop copyright protection technologies to prevent illegal copying of Blu-ray discs, he said.

"The only agreement is to collaborate with work to help develop the format. We are very positive about the possibilities down the road," O'Neill said.

The move lends significant support to the Blu-ray format against the HD-DVD (high definition/high density-DVD) version as both camps seek to build alliances with manufacturers and major studios, according to Sony senior vice president Kiyoshi Nishitani.

Fox has become the 14th board member of the BDA, along with Sony, Dell, HP, Hitachi, LG, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, TDK and Thomson Multimedia.

The goal of the association is to promote the technology to become the de facto standard for very high capacity next-generation DVDs. Fox distributes several important franchises including 'Titanic' and 'Star Wars.'

"This has a very strong meaning for the BDA. Fox is a prominent member of the Hollywood world. Package media is now a key area, and that will lead to the development of other areas," Nishitani said.

The Blu-ray Disc Association said it had 73 members as of Oct. 4.

Sony has a large back-catalog of movies that it could chose to release on Blu-ray Disc. Last month Sony bought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., adding to its existing catalog. Later last month, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) said that the PlayStation 3 game console will be compatible with the Blu-ray Disc format.

Against this, the rival HD-DVD format was initially backed by NEC and Toshiba. In August, Sanyo said that it had also decided to produce components and players for the format, making the company the third major Japanese electronics company to join the HD-DVD camp.

The technical specifications of the HD-DVD format are also almost complete. At the end of last month, the DVD Forum, an association of over 220 consumer electronics, entertainment, software and related companies that determines DVD disc specifications, approved the physical disc specifications for the rewritable version of HD-DVDs, taking the format an important step nearer to mass production.

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