The Walt Disney Co. will be the first to distribute encrypted DVD copies of its movies to award show voters to prevent illegal copying of films.

In the past, some films meant strictly for viewing by awards voters have been pirated months before the films were publicly available on home video.

The process offers maximum protection of films while allowing key voters to view them, said Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios (search).

Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (search) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (search) already have special DVD players to view the encrypted movies.

Cinea (search), a division of Dolby Laboratories, distributed 12,000 machines last year, but it was too late for the studios to produce the encrypted discs. Most studios instead distributed unencrypted DVDs or specially watermarked VHS tape copies of their films.