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Using Watermarks to Combat Piracy 406

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the ears-just-need-better-training dept.
TheEvilOverlord writes to tell us PC Advisor is reporting that researchers at the Fraunhofer Integrated Publication and Information Systems Institute have developed a new watermarking system to help track and combat piracy. From the article: "The system lets content providers, such as music studios, embed a watermark in their downloadable MP3 files. Watermark technology makes slight changes to data in sound and image files. For instance, the change could be a higher volume intensity in a tiny part of a song or a brighter colour in a minuscule part of a picture. Even the best-trained human eyes and ears, according to Kip, can't detect the change."
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Using Watermarks to Combat Piracy

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  • Human? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by biocute (936687) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:40PM (#14710233) Homepage
    Even the best-trained human eyes and ears, according to Kip, can't detect the change.

    Who says anything about using human senses to detect the watermark? If these watermarks are embedded by machine, I'm sure it won't be long until Watermark Bob creates a "cleanser" program to detect anything unusual, and maybe even remove it.
    • Re:Human? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:44PM (#14710276)
      I'm sure it won't be long until Watermark Bob creates a "cleanser" program to detect anything unusual, and maybe even remove it.

      Good point. All you'd really need is two or more copies of a given file, each with their own watermarks. Do a relatively straightfoward binary diff on the files and you'd quickly spot the watermarks. Normalize the diffs based on the similarities between the multiple file copies, and voila! Instant un-watermarked file.
      • Re:Human? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by doxology (636469)
        Or raise the volume by 1 percent all over the board then normalize...that would probably pull it off.
      • Or the watermark would still be there, but it simply points to another user. I think normalization would shift the watermark, as well. It's a very fallible system, at least at first glance.
      • Re:Human? (Score:2, Informative)

        by illestov (945762)
        this method doesnt really guarantee finding all the watermarks in case of both of the copies having the same watermark in addition to different ones. plus i think this watermarking technology wont be very popular since there is really no point in using it.. its not like having a copied watermarked mp3 is illegal and having the original mp3 is not.. the most important info is the artist who produced it and thats easy to tell just by listening to the track, all the other info like who released it and which
        • Re:Human? (Score:5, Informative)

          by dorkygeek (898295) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:32PM (#14710773) Journal
          Huh? I guess you don't understand. Every legal copy gets a different watermark, and the buyer is registered. If somebody thinks you have an illegaly copied file, they can trace back to the original buyer, who spread the file.

          • Re:Human? (Score:5, Funny)

            by sabernet (751826) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:37PM (#14710837) Homepage
            Instant defense: Sony's rootkit allowed a hacker to hijack my PC and steal my files;)
          • Re:Human? (Score:3, Funny)

            by vertinox (846076)
            If somebody thinks you have an illegaly copied file, they can trace back to the original buyer, who spread the file... ...who just so happens to be a single mother of 5 and 80 years old and has never touched a computer in her life.

            Oh and she's dead.
        • Re:Human? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@xoxFREEBSDy.net minus bsd> on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:07PM (#14711147) Homepage Journal
          The intended use of watermarking, at least as I see it, is less for mass-released files than for prerelease or limited-release uses.

          E.g., radio stations get copies of songs weeks before the CDs actually hit stores -- and suspiciously, the songs tend to show up on P2P networks soon after they go out to radio stations. What the music producers would really like to be able to do is trace the leaked files back to whoever put them on the internet, and then get medeival on them for breach of contract.

          You can imagine similar uses for prerelease screenings of movies that go out to critics, film review boards, etc. It's less about preventing piracy than it is about finding the snitch afterwards so they can be made an example of. Really, the piracy deterrent is not technological (the watermark), but social (whatever punishment gets inflicted). The watermark is just facilitating the latter.

          I suppose in theory if you had a watermark that could be embedded into the file quickly and easily, you could use it on downloaded music (like the iTMS) to see if people were sharing files that they purchased, but really I think systems like this are designed to catch big fish, not Joe Preteen who's ripping files that he bought off of Napster and putting them onto Kazaa.

          A lot of similar systems are used with images; actually many of the techniques used for watermarking are used for steganography (it's arguable that watermarking is really a form of steganography), like Least Significant Bit padding for one. There are also systems that have a robust enough watermark that they will survive printing and scanning, although they tend to begin to mess up the image slightly.
          • to whoever put them on the internet, and then get medeival on them for breach of contract.

            Well I'm sure that they would like to do this, in their fantasies. But in the real world it's a music producer vs. Clear Channel, not some individual D.J. And if Clear Channel decides that it is in their best interest that the music go out to the P2P file sharers before the record is released, then there isn't a whole lot that the record producer can do about it.

            Clear Channel gets money
            • I respectfully disagree.

                Your problem is that you are accepting the recording industry's propaganda, i.e. "We oppose piracy because people will listen to pirated copies instead of buying CDs."

                The *real* objection of the recording industry, and this goes double for clear-channel, is that P2P sidesteps their promotion monopolies and makes the music market harder to manage and control. Fragmentation of the market costs them their niche at the top of the foodchain.

                The best example of this attitude was, a while back, movie industry executives noticed that some heavily promoted presumed-blockbuster (I forget which movie it was, The Island maybe) was getting far less than the guaranteed level of attendance given the advertising budget. Careful marketing research traced this phenomenon back to bad word of mouth, which was spreading faster than it had in the past, chiefly by cellphone.

                The response of the movie industry was NOT "gee, we'd better stop making movies that even brain damaged 11 year-olds regard as intellectually insulting", but instead "is there any way we can make it illegal to badmouth our movies by text message? Libel law, maybe?" Fortunately, they concluded that was a non-starter.

                That long tangent aside, look at clearchannel. Clearchannel's business model depends COMPLETELY on the willingness of the general public to agree-to-like whatever 30 songs they decide they want to play/promote in a single month. They also need to make sure that people keep listening to the radio and not to ipods. Alternate routes of distribution are just as much a threat to clearchannel as they are to the recording industry.
              • Under 18 (Score:3, Informative)

                by tepples (727027)

                [Commercial music radio stations] also need to make sure that people keep listening to the radio and not to ipods.

                In that case, they have the under-18 market sewn up, as students in public K-12 school systems in the United States are generally forbidden to bring an iPod or other electronic music player on the school bus without the express written consent of school administration.

              • The response of the movie industry was NOT "gee, we'd better stop making movies that even brain damaged 11 year-olds regard as intellectually insulting", but instead "is there any way we can make it illegal to badmouth our movies by text message? Libel law, maybe?" Fortunately, they concluded that was a non-starter.

                Here's the old /. article:
                http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/ 19/1918243 [slashdot.org]

      • You would want three files at least.
    • Re:Human? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Most movies aren't being pirated in their original quality anyways. A 4gb movie file is usually ripped to 1gb so the odds are pretty good that this miniscule variation will get destroyed in the re encoding process.
      • Re:Human? (Score:5, Informative)

        by dustmite (667870) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:03PM (#14710487)

        That's a valid intput, but steganographers thought of that years ago already. Decent steganographic techniques include low-frequency information that can make them quite resilient to a fair deal of subsampling, recompressing, re-encoding and so on. The idea is not to make a "miniscule variation" but a very subtle variation over a large area. You can think of it like, the actual information is in the 'high bits' not the 'low bits'. Info in the 'low bits' is easily destroyed.

        • Re:Human? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by tirnacopu (732831)
          Some fair amount of googling showed up no such documented (or even better - free as in speech) algorithms, can you please post some relevant examples?
          Sorry if this appears offtopic, I for one would be very interested in such reading..
          • Re:Human? (Score:3, Informative)

            by dustmite (667870)

            Oops, I don't actually know all that much about steg., it was years ago that I was into it (and mostly for images) and I've forgotten a lot of it now, so I don't feel that mod was deserved ... but anyway, this looks like a fair starting point: http://www.jjtc.com/stegdoc/ [jjtc.com] ... there are quite a few different techniques, most of which are detectable though.

          • Re:Human? (Score:3, Informative)

            by plover (150551) *
            StirMark [cam.ac.uk] is a GPL'd watermark destroyer.

            As far as the watermarking tools themselves, all the ones I'm aware of are proprietary (patented and/or trademarked.) They are certainly not open source. If you think about it, that's the only way watermarking software can ever be made practical. Watermarking is 100% "security through obscurity." Once an attacker is aware of a watermark, that watermark can be tampered with and/or destroyed. But GPL'd code is not obscure: it is transparent by fiat. So anyone a

    • It would be so easy to get 2 copies of the song, look at how each is different, there would be a volume jump at 1 point, different in each. Just edit it out.

      For an image, again, just compare the two, and you will find the difference, the watermark. Edit it out.
      • by dorkygeek (898295)
        But you start to have problems if the watermarks in each file overlap. Then you need more than two files.

        Also think about the situation where files all have their watermarks at the same position. If the watermark is an error correcting code, and the Hamming distance between the valid strings varies enough, you might even be able to find out which two copies were used to provide the "cleansed" copy.

    • What the human senses can detect, on a subconscious level, are greater then what our conscious can perceive. So, lets make way for the subliminal messages (which, I believe, are illegal). "RIAA demands you buy this CD two more times, and agree to this EULA that you will not listen to it more then once."

      Yes let them watermark my music in a way that only someone who is running a program on my computer can tell...because, you know, this will prevent me from listening to the pirated music. Watermarks are
    • not to mention, will it be able to hold up in court when the MPAA explains "ok, now we know you can't see the difference, but this machine says there is one"
    • Re:Human? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:35PM (#14711481)
      Who says anything about using human senses to detect the watermark? If these watermarks are embedded by machine, I'm sure it won't be long until Watermark Bob creates a "cleanser" program to detect anything unusual, and maybe even remove it.

      The purpose of making the watermark imperceptible isn't to trick the user. The user is fully aware that the music is watermarked. The reason it is done the way that it is, is because it is the only way to do it. There are really two requirements for the watermark. First, it must be intertwined with the actual data in order to make it non-trivial to remove. Simply sticking the watermark in a meta-information block would make removing it too simple. Second, because the watermark is intermixed with the audio data, it MUST be done in an imperceptible way in order to retain the quality of the recording.

      So, making the watermark inaudible is not some attempt to pull one over on you. It's just the only realistic way it could be done.

  • Um, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:41PM (#14710245) Journal
    The system lets content providers, such as music studios, embed a watermark in their downloadable MP3 files

    For whom was this intended again?

    I'd be happy if there actually was plenty of music studios providing downloadable mp3's though.
  • Defeating? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:43PM (#14710268)
    ...and in order to defeat such a wonderful scheme, all you have to do is re-watermark the image/music/video.

    I've yet to see a scheme that reliably survived that test unless it was specifically designed just for that test (like embedding high power signal in several random places), and upon detection, looking for that signal in those random places (hope is that 2nd watermarking didn't wipe out -some- signal data).

    In any case, Watermarking doesn't work! Even Microsoft's researchers said so (damn, can't find link).
    • lol, so obviously simple
    • It seems to me that the primary goal of watermarking system is simply to identify pirated content. Even if a pirate changes or removes a watermark, you can show that the mark was pirated or removed.

      So, let's say you gave each legally sold copy of a song a unique randomly generated 64bit ID (that you record). The pirate could remove that ID. They might even put their own random ids in place of your id. The deal is, their IDs will not match those that you recorded, and you could make the the case that this
  • Even the best-trained human eyes and ears, according to Kip, can't detect the change.

    Maybe not, but I bet outguess [outguess.org] can, along with a million other stego tools.

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:45PM (#14710283)
    OK, so you tag downloads. Now what?

    Assuming a "de-tag" program doesn't pop up an hour later, what do you do with this wonderful invention? Instead of passing around a "normal" mp3 of Metallica, they're now sharing a "watermarked" version that allegedly can't be discerned by mere humans. How does this help?

    Cheers,
    • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:50PM (#14710343)
      OK, so you tag downloads. Now what?

      In theory it lets the distributor figure out who the source of the piracy was. Joe User logs into their site and downloads the latest hit DRM_SUX.mpeg. Unknown to him it has a unique watermark in it that identifies him as the one who downloaded this particular file. Six months later the Copyright Kops find a copy of DRM_SUX.mpeg floating around on P2P networks. They analyze the file and discover the watermark points to Joe User, so they then sick their landsharks^M^M^M^M lawyers on him.
      • But how do they prove that you put the file up on the P2P networks? Maybe your computer was broken into, either by network or physically, and the file was copied off and put on the P2P network. Maybe you sent it to your friend (fair use) and he uploaded it to the P2P network.
        • I have always wondered why can't everyone being sued by MPAA/RIAA just install a bunch of trajons on their machine and then claim that someone was using their computer to dowload music or wanted to frame them. Because it isn't that difficult to remotely control a computer. And unless the RIAA/MPAA has a video recording of the user searching the P2P at their keyboard, then clicking the "download" button and stuff like that it could have been anyone out there. Or is it a liability type thing -- "your computer
          • Or is it a liability type thing -- "your computer was used, so it doesn't matter who used it, you pay either way" ?

            Ding! This is not a criminal proceeding, but a civil suit. A far more extreme example would be suing someone who allowed a murderer to get a hold of an otherwise legally obtained gun. They can't prove you committed the murder, but they can argue that your lack of security on the firearm contributed to the crime so you have some civil liability. And in civil court you only need a preponderance

        • "But how do they prove that you put the file up on the P2P networks? Maybe your computer was broken into, either by network or physically, and the file was copied off and put on the P2P network. Maybe you sent it to your friend (fair use) and he uploaded it to the P2P network."

          Those are all interesting defenses, and you are free to try any/all of them in a court of law when you get illegally sued by the RIAA.

          Enjoy spending thousands of dollars on your lawyer and wasting dozens of hours of time. Maybe yo

          • Those are all interesting defenses, and you are free to try any/all of them in a court of law when you get illegally sued by the RIAA.

            While I hate the RIAA just as much as the next /.'er, how - praytell - is the RIAA sueing you illegal?
      • Hmm ... interesting, a good portion of my mp3 collection consists of files copied from people without their knowledge (e.g. open shares found at LANs or at work). Not to mention Joe User's box getting hacked and the files getting copied without his knowledge. They might be able to prove whose file it was but can they really prove piracy unless they find (and identify) Joe User himself personally sharing that file on a p2p network?

      • Wait. Since when did the RIAA have an alliance with bulettes?
    • Instead of passing around a "normal" mp3 of Metallica, they're now sharing a "watermarked" version that allegedly can't be discerned by mere humans. How does this help?

      Well, at least Lars would know who to sue.
    • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:53PM (#14710363) Journal
      Assuming a "de-tag" program doesn't pop up an hour later, what do you do with this wonderful invention? Instead of passing around a "normal" mp3 of Metallica, they're now sharing a "watermarked" version that allegedly can't be discerned by mere humans. How does this help?

      You code media players to detect the watermark (which would have to be in a standardized format) and refuse to play anything that does not contain the watermark. Conversely, ripping programs will not rip anything containing the watermark, making it harder to copy the source. You wouldn't have to worry so much about removal programs, as programs that would "fake" the watermark, basically couterfeiting programs. Of course, those would pop up fifteen minutes later.

      • Indies? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tepples (727027)

        You code media players to detect the watermark (which would have to be in a standardized format) and refuse to play anything that does not contain the watermark.

        So would independent recording artists be able to insert the watermark? If not, wouldn't that be grounds for an antitrust action? Or are they assuming that all possible songs are already copyrighted to a major multinational publisher, as hinted by this article [slashdot.org] and this article [lld-law.com]?

      • "You code media players to detect the watermark (which would have to be in a standardized format) and refuse to play anything that does not contain the watermark....ripping programs will not rip anything containing the watermark"

        Ok...and just who is gonna hold a gun to the head of every person writing a media player/ripper to comply with said watermarking observance?

        I kinda doubt xmms or grip is going to switch to only working within the watermark confines....

      • I think the scheme will work, but you are saying the exact thing that will kill it. The existence of a watermark should have *NO* effect on whether a machine will play it. If a $100 device from BestBuy will detect a watermark, then a pirate will be able to *easily* remove/change it, because they now have a reliable and simple and cheap test to see if the watermark is there!

        If instead the only way to detect a watermark is to put it in a carefully protected machine in the RIAA's basement with a secret program
    • The RIAA downloads a watermarked MP3 and finds out where it came from. The guy who ripped the MP3 in the first place is now in trouble.
    • Well, aren't some media files released on the internet before they can be attained/viewed through normal distribution methods? And FTA a purchased song makes it onto the free networks...

      So if the file does get out, then at least it should be easier to trace the source of the leak... Assuming this works...

      Then again, I wouldn't put it past the MPAA (the same technique can be applied to movies) or RIAA to go after the initial poster for total "damages" (in other words, blame the original uploader for all co
  • by MoOsEb0y (2177)
    if the watermarks are imperceptible to humans, than what's to say that the matrices used by audio and video codecs won't remove them from the source because they're undetectible?
  • uhm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tehsoul (844435)
    so what about the majority of pirated music: the mp3s ripped from cd?
  • "If, for instance, you purchase and download a CD, burn a copy and give it to a friend and that person puts it on a filesharing network, our system will trace that music back to you and, depending on the legal system of the country you're in, you could be [hit] with an expensive fine," Kip said.

    How, exactly? Supposing I went out and purchased a music CD (a radical idea, I know) with cash, how could they possibly trace that particular CD back to me should it somehow be made widely available to download? I
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:48PM (#14710315)
    > The system lets content providers, such as music studios, embed a watermark in their downloadable MP3 files. [ ... ] Even the best-trained human eyes and ears, according to Kip, can't detect the change.

    In other words, "Nothing to see/hear. Please move along?"

    More seriously - although it could be stripped out (relatively) easily, you could embed watermarking data in the metadata segments of downloadable MP3s. I'd accept this as a tradeoff for music studios offering downloadable MP3 files: If some_hit_song_i_downloaded.mp3 shows up on a P2P network and contains metadata whose MD5 could only be generated by, say, hashing my credit card number with some_riaa_private_key, that'd be pretty reasonable grounds for RIAA to believe that I'm the schmuck who (a) paid for the right to download it from a RIAA-authorized source, and (b) uploaded it to a non-RIAA-authorized filesharing network.

    Make it impractical for Joe Sixpack (who will be unaware of this type of watermarking, and who probably will be unaware of the existence of tools to strip it) to upload his files without risking fines/prosecution, and you can offer DRM-free MP3s to Joe Sixpack.

    • by AviLazar (741826) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:33PM (#14710787) Journal
      Since your above example utilizes credit card information you CANNOT make Joe Sixpack unaware. He has to know, explicitly, that his credit card information is being encoded and sent up. Joe Sixpack needs to be given the absolute right to say "No I really do not trust your security system, and I will not give you my GC #"
    • by Kjella (173770)
      Right... something tells me this'll work roughly until the first major botnet decides to collect these watermarks. Pardon me for saying so, but I think most people sued by the RIAA were sharing copyrighted files without authorization. Mp3 trading isn't so hot you need to bounce off a compromised machine or wireless network. Watermarked files OTOH... that's just asking for someone to share your files just to be mean.
  • The practical use (Score:2, Informative)

    by kevin.fowler (915964)
    This is already somewhat in use.

    band releases early copies of an album to reviewers. if the album leaks, the people who sent out the advances can find out who leaked it.
  • Ok, you embed a user-id into each file downloaded and look for it on p2p networks? But giving the number of insecure home PCs, the files out there will propably be stolen from people who bought them legally online and then shared everywhere.
    • It's an ill wind that blows no good.

      If this will result in someone's lawyers contacting all the people running insecure home PCs and giving 'em a short scare, I'm all for it. The first time, hopefully, should be a quick excuse to the judge: "My PC was compromised without my knowledge. I'm not at fault." -- but the _second_ time, well, the sharks get to have fun.

      There's a potential for this to improve the 'Net. Having the copyright holders identify compromised machines? It's pratically a public service

  • There are some real classics out there, you know like those Charlie Chaplin films. How do they convert this technology towards downloaded movies, especially silent ones. Will they change the narrative text between scenes or something? If not can this be seen as a workout which can be used in more modern films because they are more "recent". Jaws isn't as good without the sound!
  • Pay Cash. Send Kip email that says, "Neener, neener, neener!"
  • That's the spirit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyoShin (610051) <[tukaro] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:53PM (#14710369) Homepage Journal
    I'm hoping these kinds of anti-piracy actions work, and work well.

    Things like the DRM and DMCA were put into place to fight piracy, and wound up just hurting regular consumers while the pirates just snickered as they continued along their merry way.

    With these kinds of things, regular users will still be able to do what they like with their own copy, be it back it up or transfer it to another medium for personal use. At the same time, it will allow those tracking piracy to find the source and press charges only against that person, and not the random multitude.

    I'm sure the pirates will figure out some way to work around this (be it to randomly change the volume slightly throughout an entire MP3, or brightening/dithering an entire picture), as they have everything else, but if this kind of technology can prevail and advance, it will allow those of us legally using our own purchased goods to do so without worry, while punishing those who deserve it.
    • by mr_burns (13129)
      I'm pretty certain that they'll watermark the plaintext, then wrap that up in DRM. They aren't going to sell us non-DRM files just because they've got a watermark.
    • by no_opinion (148098) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:21PM (#14710646)
      If the majors sold inaudibly watermarked but non-DRMed MP3 files, would people buy them? My friends say no because they think people will find this too "big brotherish" but I think that the only ones at risk are the people violating copyright (i.e. sharing on p2ps). I'm willing to buy an INAUDIBLY watermarked mp3 file, because then I can do whatever I want with it, I don't have to worry about DRM, and I'm not at risk because I'm not infringing copyright.

      What do others think?

      • by markdavis (642305)
        It scares me. You could then be held liable, if someone broke into your system and "stole" some of the watermarked works and then proceeded to "share" them with others. Even worse, someone could frame someone else by simply re-watermarking media to have it point to someone else.

        Although it sounds like a very attractive alternative to DRM, there are some serious security issues that would have to be adequately addressed.
      • Looking at the other commentors--hacking is the least of your worries. The problem is that if you give any music to a friend, which is considered legitimate sharing to some extent, that friend might give it to a friend who uploads it to P2P. The RIAA traces it to you and you assume full liability. Thus currently legitimate behavior is now a nerve-wracking test of trust.

        The notable thing here is that all the companies are doing is transferring that trust-anxiety from them->you to you->your friends.

  • i hate to say it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by illtron (722358) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:54PM (#14710376) Homepage Journal
    I hate to be the guy to come out and say it, but I don't really mind DRM as long as it doesn't interfere with my user experience. I paid for my songs on iTunes, and I've rarely encountered any DRM restrictions that affected me. I wish I could just give them all to friends who wanted them, but let's face it, that's pushing the limits of fair use. And if I do want to share it, there are easy workarounds.

    This goes for downloaded files, not physical media. If I buy a CD, I want to be able to do whatever I want to it, which includes sharing with friends. I've never made a habit out of sharing files, even back in the Napster days (Sorry, but I was a leech). Most of my file sharing is between me and my friends, and while I admit that it certainly pushes the limits of legality, it's the only "responsible" way to do things.

    This watermarking idea just reeks of being absolutely unnecessary. People just need to learn to be more "responsible" about how they rip off music. I hate the record labels as much as the next guy, but I'm willing to work within the confines of a happy medium, and do most of my sharing via less (or is it more?) traditional means.

    I don't see anything wrong with sharing TV shows that are freely broadcast over the airwaves, however. For most things, however, if you don't own the copyright, it's usually not yours to distribute.

    What's my point? I really don't know. Try this: Steal all you want, just don't get caught, and don't let them force more of these silly things on all of us.
  • Guess I'll be keeping all my old ripping software that doesn't include watermarking technology, then!
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:55PM (#14710389)
    If **AA prosecutes the original buyer of illegally distributed watermarked copies, then pirate distributors will create malware to steal originals from unsuspecting copy owners. Computer owners that don't secure their machines will find that someone has surreptitiously copied their media files, sold or traded them on the open market and made the owner of the infected machine liable for criminal act.
  • Key question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by overshoot (39700) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:55PM (#14710392)
    However, the question is how this gets applied.

    Are they planning to

    • ship millions of identical watermarked files, then expect hardware to refuse to play any that files that aren't licensed (same old business model, someone else's problem.)
    • Mark each file to identify the purchaser, then go after the source of widespread copyright violation?

    The first is basically worse than DRM, the second is essentially an aid to enforcing existing copyright laws. I suspect that if the Content Cartel would finally accept that their business models need to change and go for the second approach, most of us could accept it.

  • So, the watermarking process is steganographic, then. If you diddle the least significant bits, you don't introduce human-noticeable distortion.

    It's a bit like those secret government documents who have several purposely-placed typoes, different for each distributed copies, with which you can deduce who leaked the document according to the typoes that surface in the unauthorized copies...

    So, what can prevent anyone from shaving-off the least significant bits and putting garbage instead? This way, you cann

  • Regardless of what humans can or can't see in it, there will be byte for byte differences and patterns to those differences. If there weren't, the watermarking couldn't be spotted in the files later found to be pirated.

    At the very worst, a simple matter of re-encoding the file in memory from digital to analog and back would insert enough variation due to nothing more than the variance introduced by floating point math to make the process easily circumvented.

    Aren't people transcoding iTunes stuff now by jus
  • Even the best-trained human eyes and ears, according to Kip, can't detect the change.

    But a pretty dumb file compare program will have no problem. Compare two versions of the file to see where the changes are. Compare them to a third version to assess how different each watermark is. Then fiddle bits to create your own version that they cannot no longer trace back to you.

    It will cost more to deploy the embedding software and panoply of infringement detectors than defeating this mechanism, which leads

  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:08PM (#14710529) Journal
    This was rolled out years ago, and plotzed with a mighty thud when it happened, due in no small part to the http://www.cs.princeton.edu/sip/sdmi/faq.html [slashdot.org]">wor k of Felten and his grad students at Princeton.

    Basically, the Powers That Be came up with a very good watermarking system, but even the best system can be defeated by a very determined adversary -- especially since the watermarks can't be updated once the CDs are shipped.

    Another problem that I've always had with these systems is the proof issue. If the RIAA tries to prosecute you for having watermarked files, they have to demonstrate the watermark. I can't imagine how they could show that without revealing exactly how the watermark is detected -- and once they do that, you should be off to the races.

    Anyway -- this has been tried, and it has failed. The SDMI system was really quite sophisticated, and it failed almost immediately.

    Thad Beier
    • by Fnord666 (889225) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:36PM (#14710827) Journal
      Another problem that I've always had with these systems is the proof issue. If the RIAA tries to prosecute you for having watermarked files, they have to demonstrate the watermark. I can't imagine how they could show that without revealing exactly how the watermark is detected -- and once they do that, you should be off to the races.

      This is exactly what "zero knowledge" proofs [wikipedia.org] are supposed to be able to do. Using such a protocol allows me to prove to anyone interested that I know something without revealing what that something is. the proof does not impart any new knowledge to the person/entity that is receiving it about the information. In this context it would mean that the RIAA would be able to prove that the files had been watermarked using their private mark and were thus their copyrighted material without revealing any information about how that watermarking was done. The proof would not rely on revealing the method. Graph isomorphism is a commonly used example.

      I don't know if anyone has incorporated a practical application of this into any sort of watermarking scheme, but it could be used for this purpose.

    • FYI, the SDMI system served a different purpose. It was used to embed copy control information, not forensic information.
    • No, SDMI is different, in that there was an easy test (whether or not the player worked) to tell if it was removed. The hope is that these guys will get some brains and realize that if the "watermark" prevents a player from working it will be removed/defeated, not because there is now an incentive, but because now there is a trivial test for a pirate to do to see if they succeeded (ie try playing it).

      "watermark" is supposed to mean it is invisibly small. A player that does not play things with the wrong wat
  • It's a nice thought, but I'm still not buying music online because it doesn't give a significant incentive. The cost of a full album is nearly identical to a real CD, and for that you get regular 128-bitrate encoded files. I'd rather pay a little more and get the full-quality, which I can then re-rip according to whether it's going on a portable or another CD afterward. I'd be more skeptical about data management than the shortcomings of the actual watermark. Will unlimited-music providers like Rhapsody ge
  • They said no one would notice the brown dots they add to movies to combat camming either, but I see them in theaters all the time without really trying.
  • I thought most of the content on the internet was ripped from CDs (which they can't watermark--or at least it would be a real bitch to trace it back to a given purchaser).

    on top of that, they seem to be intent to charge as much to download a song as to buy a CD, sometimes more.

    So how does this do anything at all?

    Now, for p0rn it's another story altogether.

    This whole data protection is crap anyway! Just deal with the fact that you are competing with piracy and approach it that way. Tighten your belts a lit
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:19PM (#14710622) Journal
    First of all a watermark is that bit of your banknotes that when held up to the light cause those discollerations/shadows that form a picture. They are not 'hard' to do at all, everyone who made paper in primary school will probably have done some. They are just expensive to fake right.

    Real watermarks are for duplicating, not taking out. Absolutly nobody would want to take the watermark out of their 100 euro banknote. In an mp3 you would instead want to remove the mark.

    Am I being anal? Well yeah but when it comes to security it is the only way to be. A banknote with the watermark removed just lost its value. A mp3 with its watermark has possibly just increased in value. It certainly has lost none.

    So the type of attack they have to stand up against is totally different. A banknote watermark just has to be expensive to duplicate. Add enough expensive to duplicate elements to a banknote and you will make it unattractive to counterfitters. It is the reason you see so few attemps at counterfit cents. (Please do not post links to your favorite wooden nickel story okay?)

    But all the 'counterfitter' has to do with the mp3 is to remove the watermark. Wich as others have already pointed out should not be too hard. This is totally different type of attack. Remember, the banknote is proud of its watermark and makes it very easy to 'see' it. It even forms a pretty picture to make it stand out more. The last thing you want in the mp3 version is for it to stand out. Adding a split second of mp3 codec that stands out shouting 'look at me I am a pretty watermark' is just asking for it to be edited out.

    Oh well, will this work? Well only if they somehow manage to keep you from just removing the watermark. mis-Trusted computing anyone?

    Funny thing, I own more LP's then any other medium. In fact as more and more anti copy protection is introduced, the less I own of it. LP (too many) -> CD (repectable) -> VHS (0 now but used have a okay collection) -> Mini disc (a couple)-> DVD (a few) -> iTunes (0)

    Odd that.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:19PM (#14710623)
    This sTorY is unsUbstantiaTEd. MovE alonG. MOve aLoNG.
  • Where be the ships and swabbies, the cannnons and cutlass, the parrots and wenches? Where be the sea chests full of plundered gold??

    Arrr, what a poor excuse for piracy this be!

    May ye be touched by his noodlely apendage
  • that the best watermarking system ever was invented in New Orleans, Louisiana a couple of months ago ;^D

    *ducks*

  • If every file bought in a store or downloaded has a watermark, why not just take 2,3,4 or more copies and overlay them to "wash out" the marks that can survive a codec pass? Once this is done, who is identified in that watermark? I think initial uploads will involve a 2-image wash, with later downloaded and merged copies going further. This erodes the capability of any tracking to a single market or consumer for the source of the watermark, without even knowing the crypto to reverse it.

    Also, who
  • by massysett (910130) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:48PM (#14710957) Homepage
    because it puts the enforcement burden on the record labels. There would be millions of watermarked files floating around out there, and they'd have to sue enough people to scare folks into not sharing their files. Only through scaring people could the labels have enough impact with this--there's no way they could close the spigot with the lawsuits.

    Even so, the labels might adopt something like this. But it would be in addition to their current copy restriction schemes, rather than a replacement for them. Consumers still lose as they'll still have to wrangle with FairPlay, WMA, or whatever copy restriction scheme the labels want to use.

  • by mangu (126918) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:41PM (#14711551)
    ...how do they mark the water, and how do such marks on the water keep pirate ships from attacking honest merchant ships?
  • by vertinox (846076) on Monday February 13, 2006 @07:29PM (#14712028)
    I read the article as "Using Watermarks to Combat Privacy."

    Although, that would make sense.
  • Lossy Format (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroillini.gmail@com> on Monday February 13, 2006 @07:33PM (#14712064)
    The article is a little short on technical specifics, but it's hard to imagine how a watermarking system would work with a lossy compression format.

    If the watermark is applied to the file after compression to mp3, then it is very easily defeated by decompressing and recompressing with a non-watermarking encoder, of which many exist for mp3. The act of decompressing the file will obliterate whatever bits were flipped for watermarking purposes. If the hidden information is subtle enough, the lossy compressor will simply throw it out. If it's obvious enough to not be obliterated by lossy compression, then I can hear it in the file, and the product is inferior. The only option would be for the encoder to recognize the watermark and purposefully retain the data, and then we're tied to a specific piece of software just like DRM.

    However, if the watermark was applied before the compression (i.e., directly to the wav file on the CD), then the act of compressing the file will change the watermarking somewhat, and matching the "fingerprints," as they are called in the article, would be statistical in nature, not exacting like a hash is. The fingerprint would have to be considered "close enough" to be a match.

    Also, every single watermark would have to be unique in order to match it to a specific source, which means creating a Big Database (tm) of customer info, which is easily defeated by paying with cash. On the other hand, if the record companies weren't interested in identifying a specific source, but the presence of a watermarked file in an upload directory is sufficient, then that's no different than the existence of any other file in an upload directory which contains copyrighted material, which is what they've been going after for quite some time now.

    And the point is...?

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