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Startup Tries Watermarking Instead of DRM

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the commendable-actions-mean-profits dept.

Movies 344

Loosehead Prop writes "A U.K. startup called Streamburst has a novel idea: selling downloadable video with watermarks instead of DRM. The system works by adding a 5-second intro to each download that shows the name of the person who bought the movie along with something like a watermark: 'it's not technically a watermark in the usual sense of that term, but the encoding process does strip out a unique series of bits from the file. The missing information is a minuscule portion of the overall file that does not affect video quality, according to Bjarnason, but does allow the company to discover who purchased a particular file.' The goal is to 'make people accountable for their actions without artificially restricting those actions.'"

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What's the enforcement mechanism? (5, Insightful)

flanksteak (69032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685608)

Sounds reasonable. But then how does the copyright holder distinguish between the purchaser engaging in illegal distribution vs being the victim of theft? The article never covers that. I think I can guess how the **AA will react to any watermarked file floating around the net with Joe User's name/account reference embedded in it. They'll call a SWAT team and have Joe's house raided. No proof. Sorry, Joe, for the mess. We're on to harassing the next person we vaguely suspect of illegal distribution.

Lesbians... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685658)

...there's your answer.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685668)

Sounds reasonable

You must be some executive asshole who believes every crap.

If you have 2 of these files, you can easily compare them, find out where they differ and the shit-cake is eaten.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (3, Funny)

flanksteak (69032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685780)

I'm not an executive, just an..hey waiiit a minute...

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (5, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685674)

Heck, the pirate can randomly filter out a few more bits and thus fingering some other patsy instead of him/herself?

Ohhhhh... (5, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685986)

You thought this was something intended to defeat deliberate large scale pirates? Why would you think that? I mean none of the DRM crap stops them either, so why should this? :)

Re:Ohhhhh... (4, Insightful)

ebyrob (165903) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686392)

Well basically. It sounds like this isn't intended to help figure out where illegal/unofficial distributions come from. Rather to prove legitimate rights to a particular bit of content.

Basically if the RIAA says "we found copies of Titanic and Spiceworld in your online data store on June 15", you can come back and show them your official copy bought on May 12 so they'll leave you alone. Assuming forgeries are difficult, this might allow technologies like managed online media storage to get off the ground without the legalities dragging it down. Basically this gives you a portfolio of "legally registered" works that another entity can help you manage without imposing additional restrictions on what you can do with the content.

DRM kind of does this, but it locks up the portfolio and leaves someone besides the end-user with the keys. Under a scheme like this, you're less fencing in your property, and more just making an outline that says where the property boundaries are...

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686178)

First you have to know where to filter. As it is, the company should be able to spread the information across a number of frames and still not have it be seen. Interestingly, they can even do it up right so that the various transcoders will still show important info. Overall this is a pretty good idea.

As to the theft vs. giving it away, well, there are some easy answers to this. Once a person is a "person of interest", then allow them to keep going, but track them closely. Most ppl will be found to give away the film. It is when it hits the net and is spread wildly, that the issues come in. I would guess that fewer than 1% of all film/music owners are at the core of thefts.

This is overall a win/win.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

kace (557434) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686266)

Only if the pirate has access to the reference file. Without that, he's SOL.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (3, Interesting)

skiingyac (262641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686494)

Only if the pirate has access to the reference file. Without that, he's SOL.
Or just find 2 bought copies, do a diff, and you've found the bits. Flip some of them.

Better yet, steal a credit card number, "buy" a copy, and some other guy gets blamed for it.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686548)

Or, even better, put the finger back on one of the **AA's kids [slashdot.org] . That way, no one gets in trouble.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (4, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685698)

OTOH, it will make the user more protective of their data in the first place- and with this watermarking scheme, it is THEIR data.

Another business model from this could be "You TV"- upload your own bug, buy content- and it's stamped with YOUR bug and available on a website password protected as you choose for you and your friends. Eventually, the bug becomes a video file in and of itself and a route for advertising- and suddenly we'll have advertiser-supported IPTV.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686502)

I thoroughly enjoy the idea of a watermark. Piracy is a problem but using DRM to restrict the usage of data tends to drive people towards pirates that know how to strip all that out. A watermark allows someone to maintain control over what they have purchased so they can make whatever fair use out of it that they can think of, rather than simply living with whatever fair use the companies think they can tolerate.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685750)

But then how does the copyright holder distinguish between the purchaser engaging in illegal distribution vs being the victim of theft?

They have to prove it "beyond a shadow of a doubt" in a court of law. It's not a perfect system, I'll grant you, but it's better than the alternative.

FWIW, this is a non-issue anyway. Files purchased online are almost certainly not the ones floating around P2P sites. Those are usually either from audio engineers who leak them, or rips of source media like CDs. So in the long-run, such watermarking would only be good for consumers as it would prove that they're more honest than the RIAA gives them credit for.

Or the a*holes will accuse everyone and their grandma (literally) of removing the watermark. One of those two.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (3, Insightful)

Gorm the DBA (581373) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686078)

First off...it's beyond a *reasonable doubt*, not a shadow of a doubt.

More importantly, that only applies to criminal prosecutions, not civil ones. In Civil lawsuits, you only have to prove you're 51% likely to be right. Admittedly, the amount of your judgement is lower if you're only barely correct (usually...), but still, it's not all that hard of a standard.

In addition, good lawyers cost $150 or more per hour. Defending yourself against an RIAA action will take any lawyer at least 10 hours of time, almost certainly more if it goes to trial. And no, you don't get reimbursed if you get found to be the winner (except in certain very difficult to prove situations, which almost certainly would rarely apply here).

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686106)

But then how does the copyright holder distinguish between the purchaser engaging in illegal distribution vs being the victim of theft?

They have to prove it "beyond a shadow of a doubt" in a court of law. It's not a perfect system, I'll grant you, but it's better than the alternative.
 
FWIW, this is a non-issue anyway. Files purchased online are almost certainly not the ones floating around P2P sites. Those are usually either from audio engineers who leak them, or rips of source media like CDs. So in the long-run, such watermarking would only be good for consumers as it would prove that they're more honest than the RIAA gives them credit for.
 
Or the a*holes will accuse everyone and their grandma (literally) of removing the watermark. One of those two.
 
 
No, they don't have to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt - or even a reasonable doubt (as in a criminal case). The standard for civil cases (like the RIAA cases) is much lower. They would still be able to use their current tactics.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (4, Insightful)

rhombic (140326) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686120)

They have to prove it "beyond a shadow of a doubt" in a court of law.


Nope, not at all, at least in the US. The **AA's are filing civil suits, where the standard is "preponderance of evidence", i.e. the jury thinks probably, yeah, the defendant did wrong the plaintiff. BTW, in the US at least it's "beyond a reasonable doubt", and that standard only applies to criminal cases.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

PylonHead (61401) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686144)

They have to prove it "beyond a shadow of a doubt" in a court of law.

Even in criminal court the standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt". In civil court, the standard of proof is "Clear and convincing evidence".

Standards of Proof [wikipedia.org]

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685900)

Sounds reasonable. But then how does the copyright holder distinguish between the purchaser engaging in illegal distribution vs being the victim of theft?

Since you're comparing this to theft, let's compare with what happens when it turns out some physical property you bought was actually stolen. You don't get to keep it -- you're not a "victim." You have to give it back. Translating back to this case, they'd probably ask/require you to delete your copies.

Of course, comparing copyright violation to theft isn't legally valid, so the analogy doesn't help much.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (3, Insightful)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686194)

Sounds reasonable. But then how does the copyright holder distinguish between the purchaser engaging in illegal distribution vs being the victim of theft?

Since you're comparing this to theft, let's compare with what happens when it turns out some physical property you bought was actually stolen. You don't get to keep it -- you're not a "victim." You have to give it back. Translating back to this case, they'd probably ask/require you to delete your copies.

Of course, comparing copyright violation to theft isn't legally valid, so the analogy doesn't help much.

You have it backwards. In this case, you'd be in trouble for having your property stolen (i.e. being the true victim), not from receiving stolen property which is what you are talking about. With watermarking there is no difference between purposely uploading your music to Kazaa and having it stolen by a hacker who uploads it to Kazaa.

Basically the media companies would be asking people to treat their files as if they were national secrets which is too burdensome. They are NOT being marketed as state secrets - they are being marketed as a replacement for music CDs. If you leave music CDs on the seat of your car and a thief breaks your window and steals them, you are a victim. Under this scheme if the thief breaks your car window and steals your iPod (and shares your music files), you are a criminal. Big difference.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (2, Interesting)

jorenko (238937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686256)

I don't think that's what he meant. Imagine you buy a movie off of this service. One day, the MPAA is browsing Kazaa and finds a copy of the movie with your watermark on it. But, you never put it there. How do they know that the file wasn't stolen from you, then shared by the thief?

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

thepotoo (829391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685952)

How is this an issue? It's like saying that someone shouldn't be held responsible when they left their wireless network unsecured, and a pirate comes and takes their files.
Keep your network protected, and it won't happen.

The big drawbacks I see here are: 1) Joe Denisovich, downloads movie and distributes it in Russia, immune to legal action from the US (counterable by not distributing to Russians
2) People can still copy to their friends computers. (not really what the MPAA is worried about, IMHO)

Honestly, I consider this to be massive fuckloads better than some DRM that locks down my box, installs spyware, and/or can't run on Linux/OS X. This is as good as it's going to get, and I, for one, am very seriously considering dropping my piratebay addiction for these guys.

On another note, this won't kill piracy, as pirates can just rip the DVD. The MPAA feels better about it, home users aren't getting fucked over, these guys are making cash, and pirates can still go on cracking. Everybody wins!

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (2, Interesting)

tygt (792974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685966)

So much for selling old movies at a yard sale.

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (1)

Damastus the WizLiz (935648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686110)

They could sit them down and give them a stearn talking to. It worked for the executive's kids/

Re:What's the enforcement mechanism? (3, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686240)

But then how does the copyright holder distinguish between the purchaser engaging in illegal distribution vs being the victim of theft?

They can't.

But if you happen to be the victim of "theft" a lot of times, then they could reasonably start asking questions.

So the pirate has to buy three copies now ... (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685612)

Then hex diff it, find the missing bits add them, and then.... profit!

They probably thought of that.... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685786)

Real pirates probably already have the originals anyway.

Besides, this appears aimed more to stop casual file swapping by scaring the non-tech-savvy than it is at real pirates.

Re:So the pirate has to buy three copies now ... (2, Insightful)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686284)

Buy three copies? Pirates pay their contacts at the recording presses once for the raw media.

Also, if you have n bits missing from each file and you want to reconstruct the original, you will need at most n-1 records since at most n-1 bits that are missing could overlap.

Re:So the pirate has to buy three copies now ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686340)

You are missing the point. Pirates are already bypassing every form of DRM on the market, this technique does not claim it can stop them. Instead it offers a way to discourage normal users from redistributing media while in no way interfering with their fair use rights.

If I buy one of these files I am free to backup, format shift, and edit it in any way I please and it still offers some chance of stopping me from casually sharing it with several hundred thousand of my closest friends. That sounds far better than any DRM solution I have seen so far.

On the other hand I have to worry what will happen if someone else starts distributing a media file with my watermark on it. I'm sure the RIAA/MPAA would be happy to declare that I am responsible for every copy of the file they can find on a network, regardless of who actually distributed it.

Re:So the pirate has to buy three copies now ... (1)

dkoulomzin (320266) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686380)

Or you could just drop some other bits at random. After all, you don't need an exact copy of the original... just something that can't be traced.

Re:So the pirate has to buy three copies now ... (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686474)

Uh-oh, trafficking in circumvention technology. You're under arrest!

Nothing major (0, Redundant)

ssand (702570) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685620)

This won't effect people putting up pirated movies at all. Those who are smart will edit out the first five seconds of the movie. Those who are stupid will just post it with their information.

Re:Nothing major (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685730)

ssand,

Did you read even the summary? Removing the beginning does not remove the unique signature formed by bit removal.

Of course bit removal or any sort of water mark can also be mucked with.

Still, this would be more user friendly than "hard" DRM.

Re:Nothing major (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685746)

The key isn't to stop them from pirating. The key is to catch those people who are so careless with their data to allow pirating. And editing the first 5 seconds won't work- it won't remove the "random missing bits" fingerprint in the rest of the movie.

Digital Fingerprinting? (0, Redundant)

bstorer (738305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685632)

I didn't RTFA, but how is this any different than a digital fingerprint? As far as the info at the beginning goes, anybody who cares to do so could simply chop off the first few seconds in any decent movie editor.

Re:Digital Fingerprinting? (3, Informative)

bilbravo (763359) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685848)

The "watermark" is throughout the video. The first five seconds is just a "header" if you will, for the naked eye to see. The watermark however, could not be removed so easily.

re-encode the movie (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685644)

Solution: re-encode the movie, I prefer 2 pass xvid

Could the missing bits affect the movie and be detectable?

Re:re-encode the movie (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686390)

Have you tried removing an industrial strength watermark (e.g. DigiMarc)? I tested various watermarks in a course project (Steganography) and it's not so trivial. A large number of watermarks were resistant to encoding, cropping, affine transformations, rotations, etc.

The only way I could successfully remove the watermark without making the image unusable was by diff'ing the original with the watermarked. But where are you going to get the original?

no cigar (2, Informative)

wickedsteve (729684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686420)

from TFA-
"Because of its design, the watermark even survives most editing changes and format shifts"

Re:re-encode the movie (5, Funny)

nblender (741424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686470)

The bits they change are subtle and don't affect the overall plot of the movie. So, for example, everyone who downloads a copy of the movie gets Lindsey Lohan replaced with another actor (say, Danny Devito) in every scene in which she appears. This change, while sublime, is preserved through re-encoding.

Quite clever, really.

Easy work around (-1, Redundant)

bshellenberg (779684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685646)

Just plop the video in video studio, and edit out the beginning section with your name it. So useless, why bother?

Re:Easy work around (2, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685890)

I take it you didn't even read the summary, let alone the article. Hint: your solution won't work.

Compression? (3, Interesting)

P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685652)

From TFA:

The missing information is a minuscule portion of the overall file that does not affect video quality, according to Bjarnason, but does allow the company to discover who purchased a particular file.

I'll assume the people working on Streamburst are clever; but I wonder how susceptible the ghost-stream is to translation and recompression: whether it's possible to corrupt the signature-stream while retaining watchable quality.

Re:Compression? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685790)

I'll assume the people working on Streamburst are clever; but I wonder how susceptible the ghost-stream is to translation and recompression: whether it's possible to corrupt the signature-stream while retaining watchable quality.

If they do it right, it won't be. A human being can't see the difference between RGB color #FFFFFF white and #FEFEFE white, but a compressor won't change that color number and neither will a translator.

Re:Compression? (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685946)

If they do it right, it won't be. A human being can't see the difference between RGB color #FFFFFF white and #FEFEFE white, but a compressor won't change that color number and neither will a translator.

Why wouldn't it? Video compression is lossy. If it saves bits by representing white by almost-white in a certain block of a certain frame, the codec is free to do it (for exactly the reason you cite -- humans can't tell the difference).

Re:Compression? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686362)

A set of quick formulas will probably do calculations to show what will be changed and what will not. Based on that, it should be possible to make is so that some information is saved across the frames based on various codecs. In fact, I would be willing to bet that they will make it possible to work when converting to say divx on one film and then on another film, if you change to mpeg2, so on, and so on.

Re:Compression? (2, Interesting)

Code Master (164951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686098)

But any modern codec does just that: tosses that information because can't tell. Modern video codecs don't try to accurately represent the color, etc.. they represent the edges, the motion, and some color. Speech vocoders such as for VoIP determine the parameters of your speech and encode those for resynthesis. they don't try to accurately determine sample by sample what things are. I feel that any change in codec would completely destroy any 'minor detail' fingerprinting. If they did content fingerprinting (timing of particular motions, scaling, etc) then they may be accurately reproduced.

Bit-stripping (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685654)

If the objective is to determine the purchaser of a file by means of the bits encoded in the file, would it not be possible to identify which bits and bit patterns are being removed and simply remove or replace them all? Or perhaps re-encode the file to a different format to totally change things?

Re:Bit-stripping (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686278)

It would be reasonably easy to do that sort of thing. But it's just as easy to circumvent DRM. It's a lot of work to go to just to give something away.

New Overlords (0, Redundant)

youthoftoday (975074) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685672)

In Soviet Russia, movie watermarks you.

I like (2, Insightful)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685680)

I do like this idea, we all say that we can be sensible and will pay for things so long as its in a form that is acceptable so we can use it (ie. without DRM). This would also give you your full fair use rights and would be able to fall into the public domain when the ownership had expired (another great benifit)...

In fact the only thing that I worry about is how much info they will keep on me to verify at a later point that it was me (or that it wasn't me) who put the file on Kazaa or torrent or whatever... will it be credit card info, linked to your address? will it just be a name and e-mail... and how secure are their systems it?

Still doesn't solve the real problems (4, Interesting)

sokoban (142301) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685682)

So, people who pay for a movie from these guys won't be able to share it via Kazaa or bittorrent or whatever is popular right now. I don't think that many people who pay to download a movie really do so with the intent of putting it on a filesharing network. I mean, why the hell would you do that? The people I know who do the whole illegal filesharing thing, don't pay for media they can get for free, and the people I know who buy digital download media, don't use illegal filesharing sites. Buying something legally kinda defeats the purpose of using a filesharing site, amirite?

Re:Still doesn't solve the real problems (2, Insightful)

Babillon (928171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685774)

Not at all. It has to get there somewhere, right? If your comment held true, all we'd have would be crappy leaks of screeners for our movie downloadings. Nope, some people buy the stuff and feel they have the right to share it with their friends, so they do so. Then their friends share it to their friends, and so on and so forth. That's how file sharing works. Just because you never see the beginning of the chain doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Heck, I purchase things now and then, and once in a while I'll rip the media to my PC to be able to keep the original copies safe. When it's on my PC, it's in my media folders which are shared.

I see this "cracked" in five seconds (4, Informative)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685690)

it's not technically a watermark in the usual sense of that term, but the encoding process does strip out a unique series of bits from the file. The missing information is a minuscule portion of the overall file
The warez guys will do what every torrent user does, build the file they want from more sources. They will strip all conflicting bits from the file and substitute the missing ones. Yeah, this does make it so that they need two or more sources, but it's certainly doable.

Excellent (5, Insightful)

mustafap (452510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685696)

This sounds perfect. As they say, it makes *me* responsible for the file; I can make millions of copies as backup. Of course I wont give it away, to do so is at my own risk.

The authentication will be a problem of course; it means I will not be able to make an anonymous purchase on the web - something that people are quite reasonably concerned about being able to do. What will it be signed with? My DNA? What about identity theft?

A heck, I give up. I was wrong. It's another stupid idea.

I have a 'watermarking' system for restaurants (1)

heauxmeaux (869966) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685700)

I dip my nuts in olive oil and press them against the front window of a restaurant that I have enjoyed eating at. The pleasantly shaped 'watermark' on the glass is like a zagat guide for myself and my friends.

Two Balls = Exceptional Dining, worth a special trip
One Ball = Good Dining Experience, worth stopping on the way
Knob Only = Save Your Money!

Look for these helpful reminders in a city near you!

No way (1, Redundant)

drfuchs (599179) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685702)

Yeah, right. First, just because "my" copy of a movie ends up all over the internet, doesn't mean that I did anything wrong; maybe it was stolen from me. Second, if an evil-doer buys (or steals) a few copies with different watermarks, it's a good bet that he can merge them in a way that obliterates any evidence of where they originals came from. Do your homework, guys.

Sure... (1)

avatar4d (192234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685712)

that really holds people accountable too. What if someone hacks into their computer and starts pirating? Now the movie is freely available and the person it came from gets bent over.

No need to limit it to the first 5 seconds (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685736)

Studios have been doing something like this for years, with screeners that they send out to Academy members (they even busted one member who was distributing them over the net). There is no need to limited these watermarks to just the first 5 seconds, as it doesn't effect video quality. They can put them anywhere in the video.

-Eric

Re:No need to limit it to the first 5 seconds (1)

dthable (163749) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685878)

Subliminal advertising meets anti piracy.

Of course, the free use of information would just cut into their profit margins as they try to sell you the same content 2-3 times.

Warmer... but still not right (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685766)

This seems like a reasonable idea. It would certainly allow you any amount of fair use... but like any attempt at controlling access to something (presumably you still wouldn't be able to distribute it to a few thousand close friends via the internet...) it is probably doomed to failure.

Something similar to this was featured in a couple Tom Clancy books, the "Canary Trap" where a few key words were changed in versions of a document, without changing the meaning. Find an exact quote and you know who gave it. The problem is that once someone knows about that system, its pretty easy to not give an exact quote.

Obviously this system is a bit different. BUT... find three copies, and take a look at the string of 1 and 0 that follow. If two of the three match for one position but the third is different... go for the two that are the same in the version you distribute. Obviously there are probably some interesting things they could do to prevent this, I'm sure, but given time I'm equally sure they could be overcome.

Re:Warmer... but still not right (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686034)

A video just has so much room for steganography. You could encode each I-frame using slightly different parameters, and choose your P and B frames differently, yielding very, very different results. A simple bitwise compare won't do you any good.

Even there, I suppose that eventually with enough work you could undo that by decoding and re-encoding each frame to your own specifications. You'll lose some resolution, and it would take a lot of computing power, but I don't think that'll deter people: they're willing to watch stuff off at YouTube resolution (which I find intolerable) and computing power is cheap, especially when in the service of Sticking It To The Man. (If you buy multiple copies and combine them you could probably even get around the loss of resolution, eventually deriving a near-perfect original.)

Still, I'd really like to see this catch on. Given the success of iTunes, it appears that people are willing to pay to download content legally, if the price is right and the DRM restrictions tolerable. Apple's DRM is generally tolerable, but there are those for whom it grates anyway, and this would remove those limitations as well.

Ok.. but what if (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685784)

Your computer is infected with a trojan and the malicious person behind it takes all your movie files and uploads them to [insert favorite p2p network].

This will be a goddamn mess.

They already do this in theaters (3, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685802)

In principle, I like this idea. I don't really see a problem with it.

However, they already do something similar in theaters. Every so often in theatrical movies you will notice a weird pattern of "cigarette burns" that appears for a brief moment. (Yes, to my eyes at least, they are visible and sort of distracting.) The pattern is different for each copy of the film shipped. The idea is that, if someone sneaks into a movie theater and makes a cam of a first-run movie, the producers of the movie can analyze the video and figure out which theater it came from. That helps them put more pressure on theater owners to enforce bans on video cameras, etc.

But does it seem like there are fewer cam bootlegs out there since they started doing this? They started it maybe five years ago.

Re:They already do this in theaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685938)

You really should go watch Fight Club again. That's where they insert the brief snippets of porn into family flicks.

Re:They already do this in theaters (3, Interesting)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686074)

n principle, I like this idea. I don't really see a problem with it.
If someone else gets access to that movie and spreads it, should you be held liable? You have X and someone manages to lay their hands on it and makes copies. If X is a DVD movie you wouldn't be liable (unless you helped the person in some way. But if X is a downloaded movie and the watermarking is to be any useful you must be liable... otherwise you can just say "uuuuh, somebody stole it from my computer... I didn't do nothing... you have to show I did it".

Re:They already do this in theaters (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686122)

Of course my point was that different liabilities don't make that much sense.

Re:They already do this in theaters (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686172)

I noticed the number of cam rips started to decrease proportionally to the time to DVD ;)

Re:They already do this in theaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686228)

The burns are cue marks. The timing is different because the reels are either manually switched or are spliced from multiple reels into a large reel.
http://www.answers.com/topic/cue-mark [answers.com]

As a side, when the incredibles played in the theaters, the burn was a tiny 'i' logo.

Re:They already do this in theaters (1, Insightful)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686252)

The dots are cues for the projector guy to queue up the next reel. Movie reels can only contain like ~10 minutes of video, so movies take up a bunch of reels.

Re:They already do this in theaters (1)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686578)

The dots in the corner are for the projector guy... they've been there for >15 years.

The dots the GP is talking about are something different they added in the last few years - they are usually in the center of the screen and they are a matrix of 4x3 dots or so. They appear randomly and aren't linked to the reel change.

Re:They already do this in theaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686336)

Flagrantly wrong. The dots are there because the movie studios ship films in multiple sections (I think three?) not just one enormous strand. The dots are on certain frames so that the projectionist can line up the different sections and splice them together to make the one long strand that is then played for the audience. You have to line up the exact frames or else the overlapping portions of the film get all blurry.

Think about this: a 2-hour movie in one long strand rolls up into a thin wheel 4 feet in diameter, which is a pain to ship or move around. By cutting it into thirds you can end up with three containers, each one about the size of a hatbox.

Also, take a moment to think of the costs involved of creating and shipping and tracking and auditing UNIQUE filmstrips for each theater in the world. The overhead would be prohibitive.

What happens when the video is reencoded? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685808)

well?

What about the doctrine of first sale? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17685812)

This scheme seems to cheerfully ignore the implications of legally selling on a copy.

Re:What about the doctrine of first sale? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685862)

No it doesn't. It's just a watermark. It's not DRM. A watermark doesn't stop you from selling anything. It seems pretty obvious that this is targeted at mass-scale distribution via torrents, warez sites etc. Wait until they try to prosecute before you get all up in arms.

Re:What about the doctrine of first sale? (2, Informative)

LainTouko (926420) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686246)

No it doesn't. It's just a watermark. It's not DRM. A watermark doesn't stop you from selling anything.
But it does assume you won't sell it. If you sell your watermarked file to someone who then goes and shares it with the world via P2P, it's you who gets the lawyers at the door. (Presumably.)

Re:What about the doctrine of first sale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686540)

Wait until they try to prosecute before you get all up in arms.

Worst. Advice. Ever.

No extra watermarking needed (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685916)

Adding an intro to the video will already alter the data in the rest of the file, especially if two-pass encoding is used and assigns slightly different bitrates to parts of the movie. Just keep a checksum of each 1MB block on file and you are good to go.

Not To Bad (3, Interesting)

endianx (1006895) | more than 7 years ago | (#17685942)

I suspect this would be fairly easy to circumvent, but I love the idea!

I have always thought that piracy should be solved through law enforcement, not technology. Much like traffic law enforcement.

DRM is the equivalent to putting a 70 mph speed cap on all cars. This watermarking is sort of like requiring cars to have a license plate.

If they can find a way to make this work I'd be overjoyed.

Re:Not To Bad (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686052)

No, no, no. Not TOO bad. Also, you're an idiot.

See also this (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686022)

http://www.broadcastpapers.com/whitepapers/Content %20Technology-05-2006-046-048.pdf [broadcastpapers.com]

The Thompson system for watermarking video and there's also a Fraunhofer Institute system:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,124676-page,1/ar ticle.html [pcworld.com]

These are all good ideas IMHO. As long as

1. The watermark isn't easy to remove
2. There is uncertainty as to whether the mark is removed
3. It isn't used to apply DRM

1 is obvious, 2 is there because the pirate has to be uncertain if their copy still has the idea, and 3. because the advantages of the system over DRM are lost if they use it for DRM!

Imagine you can freely buy and use the media you use however you like, but if it shows up on p2p, the ID can be pulled and traced back to you.

Since the DRM doesn't work, (not a single piece of media has successfully been locked up by DRM yet, a 100% failure rate). And since the DRM is already so restrictive that it puts off genuine sales, and is causing competition problems as inter operation is non existent. Then watermarking scheme will take over.

This one, I'm not so keen on, since the watermark is too easy to remove compared to the more mathematical approaches. The key point of any watermark approach is the mark must be difficult to remove and there must be uncertainty that the mark has been successfully removed.

My 2 cents.

Hey what a novel idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686036)

Its just a shame many people have already thought of this idea and realized that it doesn't work (for all the reasons people have posted here...subtracting more bits to hide themselves, diffing multiple versions from different accounts and fixing it, etc...)

Blockbuster Watermark (3, Funny)

93,000 (150453) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686042)

I see a future with millions of movie files on the P2P networks that are watermarked "Blockbuster Video".

I'm an idiot. (2, Funny)

93,000 (150453) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686102)

Please disregard previous post. In true /. form, I just now actually read the summary.

Re:Blockbuster Watermark (1)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686192)

Except Streamburst is selling downloadable content, completely different from video rental. What you suggest would imply that Blockbuster is downloading movies, burning them to DVDs, then renting those out to customers, who then rip the movies into files that they share on P2P.

Assuming of course that the watermark even survived the transcoding-burning-ripping-transcoding process. Which brings up an interesting point: what if you burned the content to a DVD? Would it still have the watermark?

Identify via player and charge for content (1)

rumith (983060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686082)

In the light of Vista and God knows what tricks hidden in its media player, would it be possible to identify movies either by watermark, or with [ducks] image recognition-type software build into the player, and then send the report back to Microsoft/studios, who would subsequently bill you for the content? No DRM, nothing wrong or unethical, all filesharing networks operational - just market expansion with Big Brother kind methods, and huge revenues for studios.

Hmmn, that sounds like Unix... (2, Funny)

davecb (6526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686090)

You can do almost anything, including while (1) { fork(); } but it's logged, so the sysadmin can ask you not to do that ever again (;-))

TiVoToGo uses a watermark strategy (1)

bubba451 (779167) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686168)

As far as I know, this is the strategy employed by TiVoToGo, which lets you take video off of a TiVo and watch it on your laptop. Here's one article [zdnet.com] discussing it. Personally, I'd take a watermark over restriction any day.

Flawed in Principle (0)

the_REAL_sam (670858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686184)

OK, so lets consider a few examples that prove the flaws in the watermarking method:

(1) a person sells their used computer/disk, and it has watermarked content.
(2) a person makes a CD/DVD/floppy/tape backup of their content, and it is lost/stolen.
(3) a hacker hacks their system and downloads it.
(4) a houseguest makes a duplicate without the owner's knowledge or approval.
(5) pirates watermark their content with a fake name, and/or the actual name of a
third party.
(6) etc, etc, etc. There are limitless ways it could happen.

I don't think it will be easy to use that watermark as evidence in court. Not unless their is alot of other corroberating evidence. I don't see the watermark, in and of itself, as sufficient to prove anything in court.

Re:Flawed in Principle (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686394)

I don't see the watermark, in and of itself, as sufficient to prove anything in court.

No. It probably isn't. And I think most people are probably happier that way. There will presumably always be ways for the content to leak out that there is no reasonable way the purchaser could protect against. So give them the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps warn them that this has happened and they really ought to look into securing their system. But if someone seems to be regularly getting hacked, or losing their backups or whatever, then the sellers know who they are and can cancel their account, or if they seem to be losing a supsiciously large number of files, investigate further, or look for legal remedies or whatever seems reasonable.

Dont' see it solving anything (1)

Randall311 (866824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686214)

First there is the obvious fact that has been pointed out. How do you prove that you were the one who leaked your file, and not someone else stealing it? Second, this doesn't solve anything with the pirate that made his or her own file of copyrighted material and then shared it with the world.

A step in the right direction (1)

TheGreatHegemon (956058) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686292)

Let's face it, honestly copy protection gets us down. However, this is DEFINITELY a step in the right direction. This is far less intrusive into a viewing customer's life. Joe Schmoe won't have a problem with this (I hope), and it does give the Industry some sort of protection. Not a bad idea at all.

I like this idea. (2, Insightful)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686322)

I realize there are several problems with it in practice- and that pirates taking the effort to do so can break this. However, this leaves us with a copyright protection scheme that: A. Isn't a hassle (it doesn't restrict the customer) B. Is at least as effective at discouraging piracy as anything else they've thought of. This means that it is the best Protection racket^H Scheme people have come up with yet. There is the danger of the MPAA sueing some innocent people, but I doubt they'll sue anymore innocents than they already do.

Simple work around (3, Interesting)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686324)

1-Buy 2 or more files from them
2-do a bit comparison
3-modify a copy to reflect a random profile of all removed info

this would make any compairson hard.

I applaud the idea. Watermark broken in 3... 2.. 1 (1, Redundant)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686348)

I applaud the idea of giving people the freedom to do what they please with the media they have purchased. This idea has a great motivation. I wish it could work, however, as much as I like the idea, someone will do the following:
Purchase two copies under different names.
Compare the two bit-for bit. Anywhere the bits are different, set the bit to a random value.
Watermark destroyed. Video intact.

been done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686384)

TimeTrax tried this with satellite audio recordings. Copyright holders will still pissed off b/c they had to do the work in enforcing their copyright with every tom, dick, and harry who got a copy of the recording.

Watermarks piss people off.

Good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17686432)

As others have pointed out, this could be easy to defeat (and so is DRM) but the technique is fine by me. I have no interest in infringing others copyright and that is why I find DRM so offensive.

Best of both worlds... (1)

haggie (957598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686488)

Pitch to RIAA: It's really just DRM but we call it "watermarking" so it doesn't get the backlash



Pitch to Consumers: It's not DRM!



Reality: Polished turd.

Embedding ads? (1)

SAN66 (998917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686538)

Why not use this same concept but imbed ads at the beginning/end of the file, then allow free distribution.

Develop a format whereby the decryption of the video is stored in the ads. Any modification of the ads will result in the inability of the video to play.

You could even have on the fly ads in cases like this, actually targetted ads that people may actually want to see.

I had a similar idea (4, Interesting)

kasperd (592156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17686582)

At some point I did a scetch of a somewhat similar idea in some net forum. Though I would not remove bits, rather I'd do an encoding with slightly increased quality in a few random places. (That way I would hope to prevent people bitching about reduced quality). And how much the watermarking costs in terms of extra space could be computed exactly. I haven't done any calculations on the extra space, but I would expect a few KB for a full movie.

To explain what my idea was I'll first give a short reminder of how jpeg works. Blocks of image data are transformed using something based on fourier transformations. The resulting coefficients are then rounded to different scales. For high frequency components a scale with larger steps can be used as errors in these components are not easilly noticed. There is a table of standard steps to be used for each combination of horisontal and vertical frequency. (I left out the part about how to handle colour components, which is not relevant for the following idea).

Making a minor change to one of the step sizes is not going to cause a major difference in the size of the compression or the quality. By picking some of the entries at random and reducing the step size you are going to increase the quality of random parts of the picture. Now what I want to do is to make a redundant encoding of a signature on the text from the watermark and use those bits to choose places to increase the quality. The signed text itself is included in the begining of the file.

First of all removing the signature would means you couldn't compute the step sizes, and thus you couldn't correctly decode the file. And if the file was reencoded, you might still be able to extract the watermark by comparing with the original uncompressed movie. You would just have to find enough of the places where quality was increased. (And enough is a lot less than all of them).

The signature used in the encoding should be performed using the buyer's private key. In addition to this, I would sign the entire encoded movie using the seller's private key to be able to detect if a file is corrupted (as a service for the users). The part about the user signing something could be replaced with just using a hash of the text, but that might weaken the proof of origin of a particular movie a bit.

Now all of this could be combined with features to prevent users from accidentially losing a copy to a cracker/pirate. Since this is not intended to prevent users from intentionally copying the file, it could be a lot better and less intrusive than DRM.
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