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Digital Watermarks to Replace DRM 374

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-we're-getting-somewhere dept.
palegray.net noted a wired story about an industry trend towards watermarking and away from DRM. It says "With all of the Big Four record labels now jettisoning digital rights management, music fans have every reason to rejoice. But consumer advocates are singing a note of caution, as the music industry experiments with digital-watermarking technology as a DRM substitute. Watermarking offers copyright protection by letting a company track music that finds its way to illegal peer-to-peer networks. At its most precise, a watermark could encode a unique serial number that a music company could match to the original purchaser. So far, though, labels say they won't do that: Warner and EMI have not embraced watermarking at all, while Sony's and Universal's DRM-free lineups contain "anonymous" watermarks that won't trace to an individual." Here is a Technical discussion on AudioBox and PSU.edu's Abstract Index
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Digital Watermarks to Replace DRM

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  • by JustShootMe (122551) * <rmiller@duskglow.com> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:43PM (#22015920) Homepage Journal
    DRM is a Bad Thing, IMO. It restricts your choice and prevents you from playing the media you bought in the way you want to.

    But watermarking? Eh. I don't care. You're supposed to not be sharing music you bought, and unless someone actually breaks in and steals it, there's really no legitimate reason to find music that you bought out on the net somewhere.

    That's a big "unless", though. Are we coming to the point where we're going to have to file police reports when you get hacked so that you won't be liable for the distribution of stolen music? What about liability insurance for watermarked music?

    Something to think about.
    • by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:49PM (#22016008)
      "But watermarking? Eh. I don't care. You're supposed to not be sharing music you bought, and unless someone actually breaks in and steals it, there's really no legitimate reason to find music that you bought out on the net somewhere."

      Watermarks provide very little security, since you can find them just by comparing a few copies of the same file. Watermarks tied to users offer the RIAA an easy way to frame anyone, since they can create a watermarked copy of any file with your details and release it on the Internet.

      So they're both useless and harmful.
      • If they haven't figured out a way to actually encrypt the watermarks, they're more stupid than I thought.

        In that case, I still don't care, because if something is that easily duplicated it's worthless anyway.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by 0123456 (636235)
          "If they haven't figured out a way to actually encrypt the watermarks, they're more stupid than I thought."

          Like, duh. For watermarks to work they have to be different between different copies of the same file; that's the whole point of a watermark. And that design requirement guarantees they can be trivially found by a simple byte compare, whether or not they're encrypted.

          It's no wonder you're not concerned when you don't even understand the issues.
          • That's assuming you have an unwatermarked copy of the file, right?
            • by Asmor (775910) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:00PM (#22016170) Homepage
              No...

              Let's take a sentence as an example:

              The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

              Now, let's watermark that sentence for a few different people.

              j498fn894The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
              j89g5m6-0The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
              iebciemgtThe quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

              By comparing each of those sentences, you see the first few characters are different in each, thus you can assume that's where the watermark is.
              • I thought watermarking was more of a subtle change in the content itself.

                The Quick Brown fpx jfmped ower the laay dpg

                Which I guess is still vulnerable if the watermark is too small (they'd have to basically subtly alter pretty much every unit).

                Sigh. Guess you're right, thanks for the education.
                • by Xesdeeni (308293) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @10:31PM (#22020886)
                  I've always assumed that the watermark was a low frequency thing, so that it wouldn't be filtered out by format conversion. For example, if it were done to video, it could be a slight brightening and darkening of the video over a few seconds at a very, very low frequency (say 1 Hz). That way ripping a DVD, throwing out every other field and scaling it, and converting it to DivX wouldn't destroy the data. Such a system would require a large number of frames to encode enough bits to give a unique identifier, but it seems like it would survive.

                  But it just occurred to me that simply combining two different watermarked copies, perhaps switching every GOP (to use MPEG as an example) would create a third set of data that didn't make sense when decoded.

                  But I my just be (probably am) oversimplifying.

                  Xesdeeni
              • by spitzak (4019) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:16PM (#22016364) Homepage
                In the real watermarking scheme, every single byte is changed. Basically the entire thing is covered with a huge watermark that is noise, with randomly and sparsely distributed blocks of the actual watermark. So finding identical bytes does not work.

                Averaging would seem to work but supposedly the algorithims can survive quite a lot of coverage with random noise. If the watermarks are sparse enough, all that averaging will do is make a result that has *all* the watermarks of the originals. What they do need to do is avoid having huge numbers of different watermarks, as I doubt it will survive tens of thousands of different samples being averaged. This is probably a reason there will not be per-user watermarks.
                • by 0123456 (636235)
                  "In the real watermarking scheme, every single byte is changed. Basically the entire thing is covered with a huge watermark that is noise, with randomly and sparsely distributed blocks of the actual watermark. So finding identical bytes does not work."

                  Then you're screwing up the music with noise and the people buying it would be better off just to download a copy ripped from CD. You're also loading up your servers with a huge amount of processing required to produce a different version of the entire file fo
                  • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:40PM (#22016650)

                    Then you're screwing up the music with noise and the people buying it would be better off just to download a copy ripped from CD. You're also loading up your servers with a huge amount of processing required to produce a different version of the entire file for each customer.
                    Yes, but when they've been seriously worked on, the result isn't noticeable to anybody not comparing checksums.

                    The technique is based upon steganography, and it also works better in higher quality files than in the 126 bitrate junk. Nobody hears everything in a sound file once there is enough complexity, and the watermark parts go into the areas that people aren't able to really hear.

                    There's no reason why an end user, or anybody other than the person doing the watermarking needs to be able to find it. If you randomly intersperse the watermark through a large enough portion of the file, it becomes quite difficult to find and effectively remove without causing damage to the file.

                    The trick to it is to touch every single frame, but in random spots, and to do so with enough variety that you would need to compare a huge number of copies to have a shot at unwatermarking the file. Doing so will change the results of the checksums making it a pain to figure out where the signature actually belongs. Most of the changes don't even have to have anything to do with the watermark. The weakness then is comparing against a clean copy, and to be honest, anybody that has a clean copy and cares about the watermarking is just going to use the clean copy. And if there's enough variability, it's going to be a tough thing to strip out without causing other problems.

                    It's one of those things where unless you've allowed your copy to make it onto the net, nobody is going to be able to examin the file anyways. It is several steps above the current system in terms of convenience. One could probably screw it up by transcoding it, but that is similar to what ITMS allows presently, and it does lose quality as well.
                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by lakeland (218447)
                      Perhaps.

                      It would be easy enough to test, grab a whole lot of students and get them to rate the music they're listening to. Use a standard double blind test with the clean music and the watermarked music, and look for a significant increase in rank for the clean version.
                    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @05:37PM (#22018486)

                      there's no way you could take a watermarked .wav file, compress it to Mp3, decompress it and expect to see any reasonable part of the original watermark left
                      There is more than one way to skin a cat. What you are talking about is frequency-domain watermarking. But consider the possibility of time-domain watermarking - where certain 'events' in the recording are shifted in relation to each other by a few milliseconds. That kind of watermarking *will* survive even extreme amounts of lossy recompression.
                • by Firethorn (177587)
                  I seriously doubt every single byte is changed, but I can see each block of music being changed.

                  Still, the changes have to be tiny - especially if you're going to be creating millions of watermarks.

                  I'd tend to think that if you have at least 3 copies with different watermarks you'd be able to effectively strip the watermarking.

                  Just keep the sections that any two have, drop the third.

                  More copies would make it more robust, of course.
                • by Reziac (43301) * on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:46PM (#22016726) Homepage Journal
                  What happens to such a watermark if the file is significantly reprocessed?

                  • by ASBands (1087159) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @06:29PM (#22019034) Homepage

                    Theoretically, the watermark should still be there, as the watermark is inaudible noise on the track. The goal of a good watermarking algorithm is to survive longer than the audio. You're not safe from detection by transcoding, as these guys [igd.fhg.de] have an algorithm (I'm sure many more do, as well) for the original audio track (off a CD) that can be "retrieved" at various bit rates. At the bottom, you can see a graph on the error rate of recovery, which doesn't really fall off until you get down to 64 kbps. Basically, to remove this watermark without knowing the key (which can be as large as needed), you would do more damage to the sound of the track than the background noise.

                    As long as a strong watermarking scheme is used, it will still be there, unless you screw up the sound. I don't think it will do anything for the RIAA, but it beats the hell out of DRM and root kits.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Speare (84249)

                  In the real watermarking scheme, every single byte is changed. Basically the entire thing is covered with a huge watermark that is noise, with randomly and sparsely distributed blocks of the actual watermark. So finding identical bytes does not work.

                  You don't need to erase the watermark. You need to break it, or produce plausible deniability. If you take ten copies of a 3min song, and concatenate chunks from each in 18sec blocks, then either the watermark will be unparsable, or it will implicate ten different people for small portions instead of one person for the whole song.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Kjella (173770)
                  Well, I hear what you're saying but I aay let them try. With a combination of averaging, corrolation, some random noise and maybe a few more twists I doubt they'll withstand much of anything. For exameple, if you detect a timing offset, pick a random offset using those as upper and lower bound - now it won't match either and it's not reversible to figure out which samples you started with either.

                  Funniest thing would be if they overdo this and start bordering on the audible domain. Then the pirates can avera
              • by ameoba (173803) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @03:28PM (#22017238)

                I think a better example might be like...

                1. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
                2. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
                3. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
                4. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
                5. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog
                6. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog



                (view source if you don't see it)
            • by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:19PM (#22016422) Journal
              I would think it's possible to detect using two watermarked as well.

              Think about this as a watermark:

              1234JustShootMe567
              1234CrazedWalrus567

              1234567 doesn't identify anyone, and I've found and removed the portion of the code that differentiates you or me. If the watermark is tied to the user, then that part of it is necessarily different. This assumes that the file is not re-encoded for every user before adding the watermark. Doing so would be a major detriment to scalability, so I doubt that could be done.

              Even if it is encrypted, it would have to be placed in an area of the music that isn't significant -- maybe a least-significant-bit of one channel or something -- or you'd hear it. If that's the case, then if you have two files from two different users, you can bitwise-or, zero-out, or otherwise destroy the information wherever the bits differ between the files. Since they're necessarily in an insignificant part of the signal, the music probably won't sound noticeably different.

              I just think this sounds incredibly weak. If people can break encryption and decode entire streams, there are going to be ways to strip these watermarks -- probably the day the first song that contains it is released.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            That won't work.
            Good audio watermarks can survive 64Kb/s mp3 encoding with an added 50db of white noise.
            They don't care about the huge error rates as the amount of embedded information is very small, in the order of 40 bytes or so, and you have on average three minutes of signal to get one single recovered tiny block of data.

            You can screw with it as much as you like, but it's impossible to remove the watermark without destroying the audio.
            Don't think of it as a succession of samples that can be compared. Th
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Workaphobia (931620)
        Well, watermarks are harmful in that sense if they're accepted as evidence into court, which is tantamount to accepting the RIAA's word that they didn't just manufacture evidence out of nothing with the intent of framing random people. Third parties can be prevented from framing people in this manner with an encryption scheme, but that doesn't help us when the RIAA itself isn't to be trusted. On the other hand, all this assumes that watermarks are intended to make it to court - perhaps the intent is instead
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ossifer (703813)
          If the RIAA were to attempt to utilize watermarking in court, then the watermarking algorithms would become fair game for the defense, which would yield to publicly available methods to strip the watermarking...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        ..offer the RIAA an easy way to frame anyone..

        But, the RIAA will likely be going away soon [slashdot.org], so no worries there ;)

      • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @03:55PM (#22017500)

        Watermarks tied to users offer the RIAA an easy way to frame anyone, since they can create a watermarked copy of any file with your details and release it on the Internet.
        How is this insightful? Doesn't this seem incredibly paranoid to anyone else? Is it only modded up because it's anti-RIAA? It's completely ridiculous to think that they have it out for certain people and would "frame" them.

        The RIAA, as much as they're (rightfully) demonized here, is acting defensively, not offensively. People are sharing the RIAA's copyrighted material, and they are taking legal action against those people. They'd use watermarks to track the sources of the released files. This allows for them to more accurately identify who are the people actually illegally distributing the files, so they don't end up going after everyone from four-year-old children to grandmothers who don't own computers. Isn't more accuracy a good thing?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by palegray.net (1195047)

      That's a big "unless", though. Are we coming to the point where we're going to have to file police reports when you get hacked so that you won't be liable for the distribution of stolen music? What about liability insurance for watermarked music?

      That's exactly the sort of privacy concern I have concerning widespread use of watermarking. Any time a unique identifier could be used to track something after it's been sold (whether it's digital or physical), these concerns come up. I think of parallels to unique tracker chips (perhaps uniquely encoded RFID chips) being embedded in all sorts of stuff; what if a guy kills someone with a kitchen knife he stole from your house that happens to have such a chip in it? An extreme example, sure... but it would

      • by Firethorn (177587)
        How about the kitchen knife you threw away six months ago because you bought a better set?

        There are indeed issues, but it's still leagues above DRM that restricts your ability to use your stuff.

        Just make sure that if somebody steals your MP3 player that you report it stolen so the music companies are forced to shrug when they show up on the file sharing systems.
    • by xigxag (167441)
      The record companies already know that watermarking isn't going to deter a determined filesharer. Watermarks can be easily reverse-engineered and stripped, making the file safe for you to "save" without fear of it being stolen, and honestly, who's gonna bother to hack into a computer to "steal" mp3's when the stuff is available for free at every filesharing site in existence?

      Not to mention, there's deniability at every stage. My credit card was stolen, my PC was hacked, my iPod was stolen, someone registe
    • For that reason, it's probably critical to examine the terms you agree to when you sign up for a download service that uses this technology. I would not at all be surprised if they added in a clause that makes you responsible for any copyright infringement that occurs using your copy, regardless of whether it was you or someone else that did the actual sharing. Without an explicit agreement, the burden would be on them to prove that you were responsible, and not some third party. Not that that would stop th
      • by xigxag (167441)
        First, click-thru contract be damned, they still have to convince a judge in court that you should be held responsible.

        Second, even if you're deemed in breach of contract and have to compensate them for their actual losses or some agreed upon penalty, I don't see how you could be liable for the statutory infringment if they can't establish that you engaged in tortious behavior or didn't contribute through negligence.
    • I'm with you. As long as said watermarks don't interfere with my enjoyment of the content, I'm 100% ok with it.
  • by mfh (56) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:45PM (#22015950) Homepage Journal
    When p2p groups apply simple scramble audio sequences that can't be heard. Better yet, when you burn a song onto a CD as an audio file, and then re-rip the song (as recently disclosed by Sony), then you get a clean copy.

    But go ahead and spend billions on that idea of yours. I'm sure that people who want to thwart the tyranny will simply come up with a way to get this stuff for free.

    What they really need to do is make some music that's worth paying for.
    • Why does burning to and ripping from a CD remove watermarks? Does reencoding destroy the mark? If not, I can't see why creating perfect digital copies would remove information.
    • Sony wasn't exactly telling anyone anything new. It has always been the case that any DRMed format that can be burned to an audio CD can be overcome by ripping it from the CD. But you do get a major decrease in the audio quality when you do that.

      What I would be curious to know is whether this even works with watermarking. If the watermark is actually in the audio stream, I would think that if you did a lossless rip of the CD the watermark would still be there. Probably not nearly as easily detected if their
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Joe Jay Bee (1151309) *
      That's not thwarting tyranny, that's being cheap. Stop pretending otherwise.
  • Give and Take (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joker1980 (891225) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:46PM (#22015956)
    Most people are calling for some reasonable give and take, in that regard i cant really argue against watermarks.
    • Re:Give and Take (Score:5, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:45PM (#22016706) Homepage

      Most people are calling for some reasonable give and take, in that regard i cant really argue against watermarks.

      You might want to argue against watermarking technology if you'd had RTFA.

      Digital audio watermarking involves the concealment of data within a discrete audio file. Applications for this technology are numerous. Intellectual property protection is currently the main driving force behind research in this area. To combat online music piracy, a digital watermark could be added to all recording prior to release, signifying not only the author of the work, but the user who has purchased a legitimate copy. Newer operating systems equipped with digital rights management software (DRM) will extract the watermark from audio files prior to playing them on the system. The DRM software will ensure that the user has paid for the song by comparing the watermark to the existing purchased licences on the system.
      (emphasis mine)

      TFA goes on to describe how this is a bit difficult in practice with current technology, but "they're working on it". Given the hit that classic DRM is taking in the PR space now, and given that the media company execs haven't all dropped acid and wandered back into the sixties, I think it's a safe bet that they're going to work on DRM II (New and improved, patent pending). You may return to wearing your tin foil hats now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spitzak (4019)
        Newer operating systems equipped with digital rights management software (DRM) will extract the watermark from audio files prior to playing them on the system. The DRM software will ensure that the user has paid for the song by comparing the watermark to the existing purchased licences on the system.

        Either the article writer or somebody who talked to him is an idiot. I'm not saying this won't happen, but that is NOT "watermarking" in any useful way. That is DRM.

        If you make a device that refuses to play a so
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      "Most people are calling for some reasonable give and take"

      That sounds reasonable. The problem is that reasonable give and take was established a very long time ago. The record labels are not asking for unreasonable give and take. Meeting me half way isn't reasonable if I've already traveled half way, and you are saying half way from where we are now.
  • by spikenerd (642677) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:46PM (#22015960)
    Download it under two accounts, then average the waves together. The watermark will be ruined, and the sound quality will stay at least as good as before. Problem solved. Of course you'll have to pay twice, but if you're paying the right price, 2x0=0.
    • by cliffski (65094) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:18PM (#22016396) Homepage
      This is a solution to what problem exactly?
      The proposed solution is DRM-free high quality tracks, where *if* you leak it onto a file-sharing site, then you can be traced. How is this a bad thing?
      You seem to think this is a problem, but I can only see this being a problem from the POV of pirates, and people determined to leech music for free.

      You would have a reasonable argument to suggest that the law needs some safeguards, and that the record companies should not throw the book at someone who stupidly emailed a song to a friend, who then must have leaked it, but assuming the record companies only target the hardcore who upload entire albums, or are traced to p2p music on multiple occasions, what exactly is bad and wrong about this?
      DRM-free music was supposedly what slashdot readers want? Or was it just 'free' music all along, and the DRM thing was just a way to claim justification for piracy while it lasted?

      People complained that they pirated because the music had DRM, and the DRM is going. People complained the music was too expensive, and itunes led to way lower prices. Now what is the excuse?
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        "assuming the record companies only target the hardcore"

        Um, yes, the music industry has so far proven themselves very reasonable in this regard. We should trust that they will continue to do so in the future.

        Where's the link to that story where the RIAA completely ignores hardcore commercial pirating right under their noses while suing sick people and single mothers?
      • where *if* you leak it onto a file-sharing site, then you can be traced. How is this a bad thing?

        Correction: if *someone* leaks files bought *with your account info*, the files trace back to you.

        • What happens if someone swipes your mp3 player and then uploads all your tracks to p2p?
        • Or your computer gets pwned, and the files are copied off your disk without your approval or knowledge?
        • Or someone steals your Credit Card #, uses it to buy a bunch of watermarked mp3s, and then uploads them to p2p?

        In all th

  • analog hole (Score:2, Insightful)

    still there? ok then, non-issue.
  • by NetSettler (460623) <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:50PM (#22016018) Homepage Journal

    Are we talking per-customer watermarks? (The article didn't seem to say.) Aside from the usual privacy implications, that would have its own problems, since it would allow for unbounded downstream prosecution of anyone who ever let even one copy go free, including through malware. It would make it quite a liability to even buy such stuff.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Exactly. I think it would be very difficult to prove intent in any of these cases.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reziac (43301) *
        True -- whether through malware or counterfeit watermarks, it creates a risk of bogus prosecution.

        So as I say above, don't use watermarking as a stick to prevent filesharing. Use it as a carrot to encourage *purposeful* filesharing (ie. as "free-sample" advertising aimed directly at your target market, and best of all at zero expense). Have each file include an ID3-link to a shopping cart, and whenever a sale is made, give a small reward to the *original* filesharer, whom we ID by a hash in the link to the
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      An excellent reason to wait for someone to buy the CD with cash (or shoplift it), then download the copy. Once again, DRM makes piracy the only reasonable course of action!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by schmiddy (599730)

      I doubt per-user watermarks will ever catch on for mainstream media, such as mass produced CDs or DVDs, because when you're pressing hundreds of thousands of discs it makes things a hell of a lot easier to have them all be identical. Maybe they'd catch on for downloads.. but if you could just buy and rip a CD of the same song anyway, it's kind of pointless (though the music industry is pretty dumb..)

      However, one place they're finally catching on, that I'm amazed has taken them so long, is in pre-release

    • I just don't get it. Why does a file need to be tied to a purchaser? What if I buy the CD at a record store and pay in cash? Are they going to take my information now just to encode a stupid watermark on the songs so I can't share the music with my friends? Also it seems current law would allow for a digital file to be sold just the same as a used CD. So if I purchase an MP3 album online, decide I don't like it, sell it to a friend and delete my copy of it, am I going to be held liable since his or her
  • Trust (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @01:51PM (#22016044)
    I'm not necessarily against watermarking, but:

    ... while Sony's and Universal's DRM-free lineups contain "anonymous" watermarks that won't trace to an individual

    So we trust Sony now, do we? Why does that not seem like a good idea? Not that Universal is likely to be more trustworthy, but they're more of an unknown than Sony.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      What's the point of individual watermarking if it can't be traced to an individual? I guess they could just use it for statistics. Out of 1,000,000 who downloaded the song, 100,000 of them shared it on P2P networks. I see how they could use stuff like this for ammo to make the government extend copyright even longer then it already is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vtcodger (957785)
        ***What's the point of individual watermarking if it can't be traced to an individual?***

        Non-individualized watermarks won't tell anyone if you are deliberately using illegal copies in your music or movie collection. In all probability, everyone's collection will include some illegal copies. Even the collections of people who actually TRY to stay legal. But watermarks should help in identifying people who are systematically selling or renting illegal copies. If Sleazy Sammy's Junkmart has 200 copies

  • Ho hum (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maroberts (15852)
    Take two official copies, work out where differences are, remove said differences. Goodbye watermark
  • by in2mind (988476)

    Watermarking codes are digitally woven into the fabric of a download and do not restrict listeners from making backup copies or sharing music with friends, as does DRM coding.
    So no watermarks on CD? or No CD at all?
  • The music will just be bought by unsuspecting members of a botnet and put on the internet. Then what?
    • You mean:

      1) Have music be bought by unsuspecting members of a botnet and put on the internet.
      2) ???
      3) Profit!
  • As long as I can burn my music onto CDs or listen to them any way I want on any device I like, who cares that they are watermarked? In fact, why would anyone (who purchased the music) care? Of course, if watermarking would degrede the music quality, then I would be worried - I don't know that it does, yet.
  • by Franklin Brauner (1034220) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:13PM (#22016332)
    I'm an Academy member (AMPAS), and I can tell you that the only benefit of membership is that at year end they send you every movie made that year on DVD. It's quite nice. There's a mad December-January rush to cram in every possible film. I'd hate to lose my membership because the DVD I loaned to my friends were ripped and torrented all over Christendom. The Academy is now in the habit of unceremoniously kicking out members when it's found that they've contributed to the piracy of a film (many are pre-release). So I'm usually fairly cautious.

    A couple of years ago, Cinea (a Technicolor company) sent out a free DVD player with a powerful DRM/encryption, and many of the movies that came out were suddenly playable only on that machine. This was a hassle, as I was on a job and traveling frequently, and consequently missed a number of smaller films before the January 12 nominating deadline (coincidentally, today). I also hated the ergonomics of that damned player -- the remote was impossible to use in darkened conditions. Anyhow, it was a hassle. And well over half of the movies sent to us were specially encoded to only play on my specific registered player. The other percentage of discs usually favored watermarking.

    Cut to this year, suddenly everything is watermarking and there's not a Cinea encrypted disc to be seen. Cinea doesn't support their machine and I'm stuck with this crap player that I had my son beat it to death with a sledgehammer the other day, as I videotaped the ceremony. I'm throwing away all of the past Award seasons discs, which are useless to me now. From my perspective, I'm totally cool with watermarking. However, I frequently lend movies to my elderly mother -- and I'm always living in fear that one of her tennis friends is going to talk my mother into loaning the movie to her, thusly exposing the DVD to possibilities of piracy (who knows what goes on in the houses of my mother's tennis friends) -- risking the one benefit I have of being an Academy member.

    So is this what we're reduced to? Living in fear and paranoia as if in a police state? Will Big Brother find my name/number attached to a rip online and bust my ass down to the basement? I don't, as an Academy member, believe that trading movies with your friends is piracy. As a kid we used to do it with VHS all the time. But, it's not lost on me that I lose residuals every time a movie doesn't get legitimately purchased. This is America however, I'll take the paranoia that comes with watermarking any day over the inconvenience of encryption tied to specific proprietary players.
    • The fear and paranoia in this case is entirely self inflicted.

      The solution is simple - don't lend the DVDs to your mother.
    • Cinea doesn't support their machine and I'm stuck with this crap player that I had my son beat it to death with a sledgehammer the other day, as I videotaped the ceremony.
      Coolest .... Dad .... Ever!
    • You work for the industry and are finding yourself screwed by the industry's own DRM and living in fear due to their tactics. The things is by lending your elderly mother those disks you're commiting piracy. If you weren't doing that you wouldn't be "living in fear". Are we really suppose to have any sympathy for you? You're part of the industry that's created the problem. You get advanced releases and are in a position of trust. You do the wrong thing with them. How about the poor schmuck that pays for eve
  • !new (Score:2, Insightful)

    by igorthefiend (831721)
    When I was at university writing for the music section of the newspaper, we used to fairly regularly receive CDs from the likes of BMG (Tom McRae's "Just Like Blood" arrived like this in Jan of 2003, the earliest example I remember, but it may predate that) these had individual serial numbers and names, and claimed to be watermarked to us as individuals, lest we dare leak the music. I always assumed it could be defeated by a bit by bit comparison against the retail copy - presumably the difference would be
  • in two months time

    dear big media companies: you just can't control the internet. sorry, not yours. if it is out there, it's out there

    the only valid intellectual property is that which you keep secret and private. but if it can be digitized, and it is made public, no one owns it anymore

    go ahead and pass lots of laws contradicting this observation. go ahead and hire legions of lawyers

    as if any of those laws and lawyers mean anything or make a difference, or have any moral validity or economic viability

    just ad
  • Watermarking would seem to end the fair use argument so what's left? I don't want to pay? In truth is that the real issue? Being able to freely distribute to friends was never a part of copyright law. You do benefit from the act, you give friend a couple of copied albums you bought so they feel warmer towards you but the artist doesn't benefit other than getting their work out there which doesn't pay his/her bills. Is there a middle ground with DRM paid music on one hand and free as beer on the other that w
  • I developed a very basic spread spectrum frequency domain watermarking that can resist to reencoding and be very transparent spreading the bits of information across different frequencies. if you analyze the encoding, you can use the frequencies that the encoder gives more importance and store bits there for increased reenconding strength. or you can use less important frequencies to really hide the watermarking, and also assure that the audio wasn't reencoded or touched. the spread spectrum technology can
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      That "noise" is the watermark. Sure, you can't read it unless you know the details of how it was encoded, but you can certainly mess it up. The easiest way would be to take two differently watermarked copies and average them. Bye bye watermark. If you're paranoid then write some of your own bit modifications into the regions where you detected the original watermarks to make sure.

  • Transcoding (Score:3, Informative)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @02:51PM (#22016786)
    I'd love to see an inaudible/invisible water mark that can survive transcoding from MP3 to ogg, or from MPEG4 to MJPEG for example.
    • Re:Transcoding (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xaxa (988988) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @03:04PM (#22016932)
      Has anyone considered temporal watermarking?

      Everyone is suggesting multiple transcodings to remove unheard information i.e. the watermark. Tiny differences in not what, but when, would be harder to remove.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by swilver (617741)
        Since the purpose of most lossy audio compression algorithms is to make the audio as small as possible by removing as many stuff you can't hear (ie, unheard information) then the inevitable outcome is that at some point watermarks must be audible or the latest codec will strip it.
  • by reboot246 (623534) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @03:25PM (#22017196) Homepage
    Just wondering. What about CDs and DVDs given as gifts? Certainly not the original purchaser sharing in that case. What about the rental market? What about the used CD and DVD market? Music and movies could be shared by lots of people who were not the original purchasers.
  • How does that work? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel@ h o t m a i l .com> on Saturday January 12, 2008 @03:36PM (#22017310) Homepage Journal
    Assume a perfect watermarking system.

    First transfer -- music is sold to someone else. Is the watermark ownership transferred?

    A bit more complicated -- music is purchased in the US. Buyer travels to Canada. A Canadian copies the music (legally). Now, there are two (legal) copies; one in the US and one in Canada. The Canadian now travels to the US, and has her laptop (with the copy on it) checked. She is detained. What law was broken?

    So of what use IS the watermark?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200)

      A bit more complicated -- music is purchased in the US. Buyer travels to Canada. A Canadian copies the music (legally). Now, there are two (legal) copies; one in the US and one in Canada. The Canadian now travels to the US, and has her laptop (with the copy on it) checked. She is detained. What law was broken?


      Attempted import of an unauthorized copy.

  • by earlymon (1116185) on Saturday January 12, 2008 @06:01PM (#22018738) Homepage Journal
    OK, I've followed this issue closely over the year, have R.lots.TFA - but now, unless I've been missing something, a whole new level of smoke-screening has been added to the subject.

    In the referenced article, watermarking now has two attributes (not the only two, no anal please): 1) method exists from large player (in this case, Microsoft) to add digital info to a media file that cannot be circumvented; 2) this info can be used by media distributers to, for example, to give the music industry power to prove pirating or to trace the illegal move of media across the net (goes hand-in-glove with ISP filtering, so the article indirectly said that, whether it meant to or not).

    Now, even though the article and everyone here is acknowledging the death of DRM and discussing watermarks - I think it's propaganda and a lot of people are buying.

    How is the watermarking discussed here _NOT_ DRM?

    Think about it. DRM was not an attempt to lock down media on a single platform (read on before shouting, please). DRM is an attempt to control pirating where the media industry wants to prove and control piracy and prosecute those sharing. Its first incarnation was lock-down on a per-platform basis, which from a business sense is pretty smart - saving money on lawyers and putting things on technology's backs. I think this is just the next incarnation, where they can still put the burden on the backs of others, but now give their lawyers - especially their I-told-you-so lawyers - the technical muscle to be much less embarrassed in court over digital forensic screw-ups.

    And to me it seems like they're succeeding. I remember when the debate in the early days was a) how easy DRM would be to circumvent so no one would take it seriously, b) consumers wouldn't stand for it, c) there's nothing wrong with it if it were implemented properly, and d) _no one_ here condones pirates, it doesn't interfere with the digital stream too badly, so this may be an acceptable course of action if done right.

    So. To me, this thread sounds like the exact same discussions, with s/DRM/watermark/g.

    Somebuddy square me away, please. How is this not DRM Phase II and a propaganda victory for the dark media overlords? I don't get it.

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