The Motion Picture Assn. of America has filed two separate breach-of-contract lawsuits against chip makers Sigma Designs and MediaTek.

LOS ANGELES -- The Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) has filed two separate breach-of-contract lawsuits against chip makers Sigma Designs and MediaTek.

The suits, filed Aug. 23 in Los Angeles Superior Court, claim that both companies breached the Content Scramble System (CSS) license agreement with the DVD Copy Control Assn. The MPAA seeks injunctions against the companies, recovery of mitigation costs up to $100,000 and an award of attorneys' fees and expenses up to $2 million.

Both Sigma Designs, based in Milpitas, Calif., and MediaTek, based in Taiwan, manufacture microchips that employ CSS technology for DVD players. These CSS Descrambler Chips allow the machines to decrypt a DVD's copy protection and play the disc.

The CSS license agreement, which both companies have signed, according to the suits, allows companies to sell their chips only to hardware manufacturers that are also authorized licensees. This ensures the integrity and security of the CSS system, the suit claims.

An MPAA investigation found chips manufactured by Sigma Designs and MediaTek embedded in DVD players manufactured by several companies that were allegedly not authorized licensees. These players, the complaint alleges, permitted exposed copyrighted material to unauthorized copying.

Dan Robbins, chief technology counsel for the MPAA, says in a statement: "Responsible corporate citizens honor the contracts they sign. There is no leniency for irresponsible companies that seek to circumvent the system and operate outside of the law. The court has already found that violations of this contract create irreparable harm for the motion picture industry, and we intend to seek out and move promptly against any further violations."

The MPAA seeks an order requiring the companies to provide quarterly reports identifying all recipients of certain products. The trade group also seeks an order permitting the movie studios or a representative to test any "new or re-engineered" product that incorporates CSS technology before the product is transferred to a third party.

Neither Sigma Designs nor MediaTek could be reached for comment.

Last month, the MPAA won a preliminary injunction against Fremont, Calif.-based ESS Technology for selling chips to unauthorized manufacturers.