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IDs in Color Copies

michael posted more than 14 years ago | from the thought-paper-was-safe-didn't-you dept.

Technology 413

Slashdot covers the continuing efforts of music and other industries to eliminate digital copying of, well, just about anything. But what about paper copies? What if every color photocopy you made included a unique serial number to trace the page back to the copy machine? What if every color printer, down to the lowliest inkjet, printed an invisible watermark on every page it printed? What if every scanner included a watermark in every scan that was traceable back to the scanner?

Slashdot received a lot of submissions of this Privacy Forum article about ID numbers being "watermarked" (just like digital watermarks) into copies made by any color copy machine. Go ahead and read it; the rest of this story assumes that you've read the link.

This not a secret; I remember a case a few years ago where a Columbia University copier was being used to create counterfeit currency, and the imprinted copies were traced straight back to the machine used to create them (amazingly, Altavista turned up an article about this case). Basically, when color copiers first started getting good, the Treasury started leaning on manufacturers to make their products less useful for counterfeiting. AFAIK, there's no law in effect saying that manufacturers MUST include an anti-counterfeiting features in their devices; but on the other hand, there aren't very many equipment manufacturers, so they're easy to lean on.

So today, any copy you make with any color copier will include a unique serial number. Make sure you don't copy anything that someone might want to trace back to you on a color copier. Maybe this isn't that big a deal; color copiers aren't home appliances.

But now home scanners and inkjets make up a nice copying system for as little $200-300. The Treasury Department has a big program devoted to preventing digital copying, and it looks like one of their main concerns is consumer-grade equipment. The Bureau of Printing and Engraving is even soliciting proposals from vendors which have a system suitable for embedding these watermarks in all output produced by color inkjet printers.

Fighting counterfeiting is fine with me. Thus the systems which "recognize" currency and refuse to scan or print it don't seem like too much of an infringement. But embedding serial numbers in all printer output? Maybe I just have a cynical mind, but I can think of about a hundred reasons this is a bad idea.

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Scanners (0)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474510)

Watermarked scanners wouldn't be that bad really, just crop the watermark out. After all it IS scanning it into an image editing program and if the watermark took up the whole image than the photo would be useless. Just crop out the bottom or side or wherever it is and be done with it.
As far as copiers go, it would be interesting to watch the black market of "bootleg copiers" sprout up of copiers that have been built without or have had the watermarkings removed.

I'll just keep going to Kinko's (2)

wirefarm (18470) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474511)

:-)g

Well so much for that. (1)

cruise (111380) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474512)

So now I can't even print my own money any more!? Jeese what is this world coming to!

But seriously, Things like this make me really like my epson action printer 5000. It's old, it's loud it's clunky and it's slow but no one is tracing my paper back to it.

It's log, it's log, it's big it's heavy it's wood.

Re:Scanners (3)

smileyy (11535) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474513)

What they're talking about is a watermark embedded using steganography -- placed into the noise of the image, much like copy protection of digital images can be done by Photoshop (and other programs) now.

Re:I'll just keep going to Kinko's (1)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474514)

You bring up an interesting point, what would this do to the paid copying industry. Any documents would be tracable to kinkos, not the copier. Come to think of it what if you sell your copier?

No problem (3)

finkployd (12902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474515)

We just disable this part of the printer/copier/scanner. Time and time again we learn the collegtive intelligence of people who believe in freedom and "fair use" is much higher than the companies trying to stop us.
Perhaps someday, someone other than ourselves will realize this.

Finkployd

Read the article. (2)

freakho (28342) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474516)

..just crop the watermark out..
This is encoded in 'background noise' in the image, and is not visable. The algorithm for decoding the watermark is known only to the manufacturers and a few government agencies.

..it would be interesting to watch the black market..

Wrong. This has been around for at least five years. It is not a new thing. It's been an open secret for years, many people even assuming it was an urban legend, and the media ignoring it.

Re:Scanners (1)

JohnG (93975) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474517)

Oh. Well that kinda puts a kink in things :)
'course I reckon people have a right to copy protect their images, but I don't think all copiers should do it. Sometimes I think todays modern governments would have just shot Patrick Henry when he said "Give me liberty or give me death" :)

Deja Vu All Over Again (5)

Steve B (42864) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474518)

At one point [Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's] censors intercepted some anonymous letters addressed to Radio Free Europe, criticizing the Ceausescus' 'personality cult.' In a fit of rage, Ceausescu ordered his security chiefs to get samples of the handwriting of every school child and adult Romanian, so that their handwriting experts could identify who had written the letters.

Additionally, he wanted every typewriter owned by the state registered with the Securitate, along with a sample of its type.

--Dr. James McCollum (Is Communism Dead Forever?)
/.

Re:No problem (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474519)

collegtive intelligence

However, our spelling sometimes leaves something to be desired

:)

I guess that Preview button is there for a reason, who knew?

Finkployd

Canon copiers (4)

Mechanical_Governor (101122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474520)

Canon color lasers (800, 1000, 2400, ect.) all have a board that recognizes things like money and postage stamps. If you try and copy any of these it will spit out all black copies, and will continue to do so until a Canon tech is called. (They usualy call the Secret Service)

How does it work without compromising the image? (1)

Mantle (104724) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474521)

Does anyone know how this works without altering the image? I mean, if the copy is not "perfect", many people would choose not to use that product for their copying purposes. According to the first link (Privacy Forum) in the article, the watermark is "invisible". So.. how is it detected?

Digital (5)

debrain (29228) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474522)

As with all digital media, a watermark of any nature, unless generated with the most crytpic of methods, can be removed. Applying watermarks to scanned images would be very difficult to keep there, for those that (a) know about the watermark and (b) care about the watermark. Take DVD's and Audio CD's. Making them digital opens them up to mountains of transformations, not the least of which is the removal of copyright encryption (more of a copyright notice, now).

Paper and print is a whole different story. I would be wary of buying anything that watermarked everything I printed. I use a (granddaddy) AppleWriter II laser printer, and am reluctant to upgrade to a new printer if I am aware of this sort of thing. My big concern is who can read these watermarks, and why would they ever want to. (Other than for legal reasons, but I can't see myself printing threats off my printer.)

I can see newer laser printers being able to do this sort of thing, but I cannot see why a printer company would risk the public relations disaster that would ensue after someone found it producing a watermark, and any possible corporate backlash from including such a "feature".

I really don't think that much about my privacy, I'd like to think I'm pretty good to get along with in that way, but I (personally -- someone will hopefully point out valid reasons, but I guess valid reasons depend on who can read the watermark ...) can't see any justifiable reason for said watermarks except for perhaps malicious purposes.

Which raises a very good question: (1)

freakho (28342) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474523)

Are there any effort going on at reverse-engineering/removing this 'feature'? I assume that since it's been known for years, and simply not publicized, that somebody has been working on this.

Oh well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474524)

So much for spreading my new copier virus, at least not without getting my butt in a sling.

sort of a return to the olden days... (2)

Savage Henry Matisse (94615) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474525)

Sorry for being a little offtopic, here. Back in the day of manual typewriters (no electronic parts whatsoever) each typewriter had-- by virtue of the idiosyncrasies in letter alignment, imprint depth in paper, ribbon wear, etc.-- what amounted to a unique fingerprint. Many famous criminals (The ones that leap to mind are Leopold and Loeb [idsonline.com] , two precocious 14 year olds who read Nietzsche and then decided to kill an acquaintance so as to prove their status as Ubermenschen. This was back in the 1920s-- probably those violent 1st person video games that drove them to it) were tracked down because of their typewriter. It wasn't the most damning piece of evidence (one of the kids also dropped his glasses at the scene), but was none the less integral to the trial.

Again, food for thought.

-"S"HM

damn... there's more privacy down the drain. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474526)

what's next? first it was pentium iii's ID problem, now the scanners? soon we'll have a new protocol for communicating where we'll be tagging each packet with a person's ID number, "for security purposes", of course.

maybe i'm just cynical, but the world is becoming less and less human and more and more robotized. we are no longer treated as human beings, but as criminals, or as children. we need to be watched over by the wise and caring eye of the "big brother", we are too foolish for own good and thus we must not be given any freedom. 1984... all those novels which people shrug off as being a waste of their time. we are LIVING it already! god damn...

why can't we all just get along? and live in peace and harmony? and why can't they just leave us alone? all i want is just some peace and quiet... before i die.

photoshop digital watermarking is stupid (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474527)


because you can translate the file to bmp or xpm, remove the watermarking, and then resave it as a jpeg.

Leaning, Concern (3)

weston (16146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474528)

From the article:

While there is currently no U.S. legislative requirement that manufacturers of copier technology include IDs on color copies, it is also the case that these manufacturers have the clear impression that if they do not include such IDs, legislation to require them would be immediately forthcoming.

Hmmm. OK. So cooperation is used to forestall regulation. What with the proliferation and strange application of various laws, I'm actually more comfortable with manufacturer cooperation than regulation.

From Michael:

But embedding serial numbers in all printer output? Maybe I just have a cynical mind, but I can think of about a hundred reasons this is a bad idea.

The only threat I'm able to think of at the moment is to anonymous free speech. So if someone prints a newsletter with ideas someone doesn't like, the newslettter is branded "subversive", and can be tracked back to the printer. But then what? Can they really be shut down? And how many such "subversisves" really are anonymous anyway?

Serial Numbers? (2)

schporto (20516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474529)

Is this really serial numbers? Or is it just detection of the 'flaws'. My understanding was that all photo copiers have scratches on their glass or elsewhere that make them identifiable. Similar to how guns are scratched and therefore identifiable. Or typewritters. I would imagine that anything that has mechanical parts and outputs physical media would have some identifiable marks. Merely by the scartchs marks etc on any mechanical device.
-cpd

More 'government spook' stories (1)

GaspodeTheWonderDog (40464) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474530)

Okay, I found the article a little silly. At least for now this whole serial number business would be ludicrous, but it made me think.
What if you only went a few steps further and included not only serial numbers and water marks from scanners, and photo copiers and the like, but could also have all these devices 'communicate' with one another between say monetary transactions.
Then you could build a pretty strong case against somebody for distributing or creating pr0n sites and the like.
Just what we need though, another boogeyman...

Preternatural pink worms (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474531)

Color xerox machines are the sole means of
reproduction for the preternatural pink worms.
The technology for them was developed by the worms
as part of an agreement with the undetectable
aliens, who are the true technological innovators.
This whole serial number deal must be the work
of the robotic snakes! You think registration of
_gun_ is bad, think what will happen if the
robotic snakes know where any given preternatural
pink worm originated?

We must fight this, brothers and sisters. We
must let the truth be known, before it is too
late!

Xerox Copiers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474532)

I was under the impression that higher-end Xerox copiers already had this functionality.

Re:Scanners (1)

Mike A. (19999) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474533)

So, pardon my ignorance, but what would happen if you took the image thus produced and recorded your own steganographic message on top of it? Hey, two nose-thumbs at the Man for the price of one! :-)
Seriously, though, it'd be easy to remove a "watermark" of that sort - just zero out the low bits. Ultimately, it's the paper copies that are worrisome anyway.

Hang onto the ink jet... (5)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474534)

The article says that we may see this sort of thing implemented in ink jets soon; I'm hanging onto mine.
Ink jets have come a long way in the last few years, and they've reached the stage where, with the right paper, they can print photographic-quality pictures.

What does this mean? Well, everyone who's planning on doing something nasty-and-traceable will do it on an older printer. Some stupid people won't, and they'll get caught, justifying in the minds of the Man and the public that such watermarking is worthwhile. But, like drug smuggling, the vast majority will slip by unnoticed.

Freedoms will be curtailed, money will be wasted, and it'll all be for nothing. Have a nice day.

Re:Guess what... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474535)

That's what the article said. Kindly read them before commenting on them.

Kinko can issue IDs... (1)

FatSean (18753) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474536)

In order to use a Kinko's copier, they could require you sign up for a card needed to activate the copier. Under the guise of convenience (the card could work like a debit card) they could identify who was making the copies and insert a watermark into the copy that identified the card. Of course, you could give false information when getting the card, and I doubt Kinkos is going to start demanding picture ID to get a copier card, but still...

Counterfit how-to (3)

British (51765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474537)

On a news segment, it showed one brand of copiers that messed up a dollar bill being copied on the printout. THEN they showed you how to circumvent it(gotta love those news people). You also put on a color photo when you're copying the dollar bill, and boom, instant copy defeat.

If you don't know about it? (1)

grmoc (57943) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474538)

Watermarking can be _very_ subtle. If HP a watermarking algorithm into their printers, (a good one) how would we know that it was there? On one hand, if I can't tell that it is there, it doesn't bother me too much (at least from the perspective of quality of output), however from a privacy standpoint it bothers me to the core. Law enforcement would be happy to be able to trace everything through each and every pair of hands hat touched it, I'm sure. I am not so sure that this would be safe- Laws are not always enforced.. and just about everyone is breaking a few laws they never knew about every dy. The sad fact is that there are so many laws (and conflicting laws! There is no ammendment saying that conflicting laws must be stricken! How does the average citizen deal with them?!), that noone can obey all of them, even if it is their intention. The law does not govern intention (except to classify degrees of murder, and a few more), but only comes into effect based on actions, inactions or behaviours. This is one more thing that makes it easier for law enforcement to trace each and every action that you do.. and to possibly nail you on each and every day that you live.. Ignorance is no excuse... So anyon who is all gung-ho for watermarking (effectively, tracibility), keep in mind the dangers- YOU are breaking the law pretty much just by living... Do you want everyone to know it?

Nat is Hot Drew is Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474539)

Okay this is funny but Drew is pretty butt compared Nat.
Maybe you should try to think of a different #2 girl.
but they all look so pathetic in comparison

Re:Canon copiers (1)

Hermie The Drill (122991) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474540)

I thought that was an urban legend!!

How do they link the printer to me? (2)

ghoti (60903) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474541)

If I use my color printer to print counterfeit money, and the printer embeds some kind of serial number in the printout, how do they know it's *my* printer? I mean, I don't have to register the software or anything. And even if, I probably wouldn't give them the printer's serial number (or my real name, for that matter) if I was planning to use it to counterfeit money.

On a separate note, watermarking software has proven to be useless, since just loading and saving a jpg gets rid of it (and if that is not enough, just change the brightness slightly, or apply a "weak" filter). I don't know if any method exists yet, that really survives printing out and rescanning (I can't imagine that's possible. It's hard enough to get even close to the original colors with most current scanners and printers).

Bad Idea (0)

penguinboy (35085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474542)

This is ridiculous. Not that I support counterfeiting, but embedding a unique in all scanned/printed images to track who they came from? Ridiculous. Any company who agreed to implement this idiocy would see its sales hurt. Hopefully, that is. It seems that too many people would probably either not understand or not care. Half the problem with privacy issues today is that not enough people care enough to make a statment so that something will be done.

My $0.02

Re:Canon copiers (1)

SPrintF (95561) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474543)

I'm sorry, but I have to challenge this statement. Currency, perhaps, I can understand. But, given the wide variety of designs used in US postage, how would a copier recognize a stamp?

Re:Serial Numbers? (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474544)

Similar to how guns are scratched and therefore identifiable.

I'm not sure I follow you here, you mean the serial number?

Finkployd

Is there a need ... (2)

LL (20038) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474545)

to identify "original" impressions? I'm thinking of the case of digital cameras/camcorders where you need to use the results as evidence in say a court and you wish to verify that any resulting image is the true and faithful record rather than a digital marked up version. The abuse of technology to fake evidence, influence a constitutent or pervert the course of justice, either deliberately or by chance [informinc.co.uk] ) can be a danger to a society which increasingly requires a informed evaluation of rather complex issues. Already artists think nothingabout touching up their works. Given the increasingly use of synthetic imagery, how much further will it go before we trust anything we see or hear? Perhaps this will follow the case of rubies where the artificial ones are so perfect, the real collectors items are those with natural flaws which are difficult to fake. But with digital media which is infinitely malleable, how can one tell the difference between reality and augmented? Think of the increasing use of artificial substitutes for money (book tokens, phone cards, gift vouchers, etc) .... how easily can these be faked, especially in digital form? As a fiat money, the dollar bill represents nothing except a promise backed by the trust and faith of the people for a future claim on some resource, good or service. Laws and technology may be fine, but they are no substitute for personal trust and eyeballing the system to make sure there are no hidden gotchas.

LL

Just don't mess up my image (4)

meckardt (113120) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474546)

Privacy concerns aside, the only thing about placing an identification number on a color print that would bother me would be if I could see it. If the ID was scattered about the page as "noise", and unobservable by me, it wouldn't bother me much.

As for the privacy issue... wouldn't such a encoding method be proprietary to the manufacturer? So what happens if I first copy the color image on a Xerox machine, and then take the copy over to a different machine, and copy that. Assuming the quality was not lost, the hidden ID code would not be decipherable by any (one) decryption algorythm.

Mike Eckardt [geocities.com] meckardt@spam.yahoo.com

Please tell me how.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474547)

Please tell me how to remove your copier virus from my xerox!!!! It caused my copier to crash. I am sure that it got it from that ream of pre-formated paper I got from the discount house.

Re:Scanners (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474548)

What they're talking about is a watermark embedded using steganography -- placed into the noise of the image, much like copy protection of digital images can be done by Photoshop (and other programs) now.


What you are not counting on is that you could simply have a program that scans the image and looks for anything that is not necessary for the image in question then removes it.

How about improving the american money instead... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474549)

The US bills are notorius for being old obsolete crap, among the easiest in the world to copy. Other countries update their currency (and sometimes redesign it), Denmark for instance has watermarks in the bills, holograms, fine colour hues and ultra thin strips of metal in the bills. Looks and handles quite normal, but are difficult as hell to duplicate - american bills? Just point us at the nearest photocopier...

by the way (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474550)


I'm gonna patent this anti watermarking technique. :)

Re:I'll just keep going to Kinko's (2)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474551)

All sufficiently complex copiers require manufacturer service, as the manufacturers are loathe to give up the lucrative service contracts. The owner of a particular ID is therefore known to the manufacturer by-way of the machine serial number. Even if the manufacturer can't tell you who currently owns the machine (if it is not being serviced) they can tell you the serial number of the machine that produced the copy.

Re:Scanners (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474552)

Sometimes I think todays modern governments would have just shot Patrick Henry when he said "Give me liberty or give me death"

The US government has already shot people in this situation. Liberty scares the shit out of them.

Finkployd

Re:Digital (1)

vivekb (111127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474553)

Some documents are worth money (stamps, cheques, cash). Right now, image manipulation technology exists to alter digital copies of these documents. If perfect-accuracy printing devices also existed, anyone could duplicate these documents, in effect printing money for themselves.

Would cash be worth anything if anyone could just download a fifty and print it out? The only way to preserve the value of things like cash is to make sure that no one can duplicate it. One solution is to add noise to every image produced by a printer or copier. If companies responsibly manipulate that noise to encode a serial number, I don't object. After all, all of my phone communications have serial numbers attached to them.

Re:Serial Numbers? (2)

Bolero (67403) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474554)

I would believe physical defects rather then some type of "hidden in the noise of the picture" type of watermarking for purposes of identification. What type of process would it use to hide an "invisible" watermark into a printed image. Also, how would the watermark on the printed page be effected by age, weather, water, dust, and sunlight?

I would even believe that the copier companies might be putting scratches on the glass purposely for that. But the idea of a secret hidden function is just too over-the-top. The damn machines are complex enough without sometype of super-chip that adds an invisible watermark. Also, what about analog color copiers?

Just my two cents.

Re:Canon copiers (1)

Mechanical_Governor (101122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474555)

I worked in a copy shop and that happened to us. We were doing a copy of some academic aword for a student and it happened.The tech came in and fixed it. He said it reads the patterns and scoll work on the documents. It also picks up certain shades of green (it usualy just changes the green when it makes the copies though)

Re:Serial Numbers? (1)

schporto (20516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474556)

No. Sorry I wasn't clear. When a bullet is fired because no two bores are exactly alike the bullet ends up with minor scratches that are similar each time the gun is fired (each firing actually makes it more unique). A copier with a scratch on the glass will always reproduce that scratch. And there's always scratches. Or black dots that are imperfections on the printing drum. Yes its not an id exactly but it identifiable. So an expert could tell you that two copies were produced from the same machine.
-cpd

Reasons this is a bad idea. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474557)

The United States constitution does not specically grant a right to privacy. However, the supreme court has on many occasions upheld this as a basic American right. Many states constitutions specifically include such a right. California is one example.

Technology that identifies copies and printer output infringes this right. If every print out and every copy identifies the machine from which it came, private communications from these media are impossible.

Your employer will have to begin a policy where documents that are not lawyer approved will have to be shredded, lest something you printed in jest make it into the 'wrong hands' and the person or company sueing for libel gets a court order to identify the documents origin.

Aside from possible government abuse of this technology it is also possible that the 'propriety algorithms' used to ID machines could be broken or stolen. Given the history of these types of secrets, I would say it is inevitable.

The worst harm I see here is more fuel for the fire of tort cases. With everyone sueing everyone else I can see this technology adding fuel to the fire.

I can not think of any specific scenarios where the average law abiding citizen would be harmed by this unless the government were to abuse thier power to identify documents. However the less power the Government has to infringe, the less they will be tempted.

-AC cause I can't remember my /. nick. =(

Re:I'll just keep going to Kinko's (2)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474558)

many of the large chains give you a big hassle about copying regular itmes, much less money. The debit cards they so frequently use for convenience (and they are more convenient than change) can also be used for identification.

As an artist, I've had copy places refuse to let me make photocopies of my own work because they were worried about copyright violations (I just couldn't convince them that i had in fact created the work in the first place!)...

Re:Kinko can issue IDs... (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474559)

In order to use a Kinko's copier, they could require you sign up for a card needed to activate the copier. Under the guise of convenience (the card could work like a debit card) they could identify who was making the copies and insert a
watermark into the copy that identified the card. Of course, you could give false information when getting the card, and I doubt Kinkos is going to start demanding picture ID to get a copier card, but still...


The watermark would degrade until it was no longer usable in nabbing the person. This type of issue was around in the 70s when copiers first came out and people started using them liberally to get copies of books and other publications.

Re:Scanners (1)

friedo (112163) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474560)

What they're talking about is a watermark embedded using steganography -- placed into the noise of the image, much like copy protection of digital images can be done by Photoshop (and other programs) now.

What's the point? You could just apply a filter, change image formats, or zero all the low bits in the image. Further, it would be useless on printed copies, wouldn't it? Stego's great for hiding secret messages, but easily defeated.

Soviet Typewriters (2)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474561)

ISTR reading that in the old Soviet Union, anyone who bought a typewriter was required to register a sample of their type with the state. (For you young pups out there, old mechanical typewriters used to have enough variations in the print heads that you could supposedly identify a typewriter from a print sample. I doubt that survived the invention of replacable daisy wheels, IBM "ball" print heads, etc. Modern manufacturing techniques may well have started producing identical print heads well before that.) The CCCP supposdly wanted to be able to identify the source of any subversive propaganda. I suspect this may have been an urband legend; it has a sort of "too good to be true" feel.

Can't Cut it Out (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474562)

That's not how watermarks work. They are sort of like a hologram. They are made out of invisible distortions distributed throughout the picture. Cut the picture in half, and each half will have a half-strength watermark, just like a hologram. Compress the picture, and the watermark will be reduced in strength according to the compression factor (75%? 90%?) but it will still be there. Watermarks are additive, so if you add a new watermark overtop an old one, they will add together and both will be visible. Watermark something too many times, enough to jumble up the original mark, and the distortions finally become noticeable.

But if you know the math behind the watermark, and you can extract it, you can erase it by watermarking with the complement of the original watermark. Naturally, this will be illegal.

Re:Serial Numbers? (1)

Ripp (17047) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474563)

No silly.

He means that all firearms have a unique 'rifling' pattern on the inside of the barrel which in turn leaves it's mark on any bullet/slug which goes through it. Ballistics.

Use a shotgun with low gauge pellets.

Re:Canon copiers (1)

ghoti (60903) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474564)

I also doubt that this is true. Even for money it would be quite difficult and probably not that difficult to defeat.
But it would, of course, only work for one currency - so if you're into copying dollar bills, just order your copier (or printer) from abroad!

Re:Canon copiers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474565)

That'd make a great DoS attack, no?

How to remove the watermark (1)

hoss10 (108367) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474566)

Seeing as the watermark is encoded as 'background noise' maybe after scanning the user could run a blur or something on the picture.
It would affect the quality of course, but it should mess up the picture enough to destroy the watermark

OLD NEWS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474567)

That is so old of news infact a complete rip off of Mondo 2000 magazine. That is from before '94.

Re:Scanners (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474568)

The US government has already shot people in this situation. Liberty scares the shit out of them.

Alright maybe I have a little chip on the shoulder from being mass de-moderated yesterday but just who, and when, and under what circumstances was a person in any way and who had any type of importance was actually killed by individuals who represented the United States government.

Re:How do they link the printer to me? (2)

Solarus7 (79428) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474569)

It wouldn't be that difficult really. If they can track the watermark back to a particular manufacturer then the manufacturer will have the SN and the outlet that it was sold to on file. They then go to the retailer and try and find out who the SN belongs to.

The only potential way around it I could foresee is to buy the equipment from a computer show and pay cash for it.

Sol

Re:Serial Numbers? (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474570)

True, but it's not that difficult to re-bore it.

Finkployd

Re:by the way (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474571)

I'm gonna patent this anti watermarking technique. :)

Too late I thought about this in 1986. Sorry I guess you will have to pay me a royalty fee of about $5,000 per use now :)

more secure $ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474572)

The US needs to make its money more secure by embedding microchips into each bill. This will prevent counterfeiting and also allow the immediate global positoning of any bill. Each bill should cost at least as much as its denomination to manufacture it. Otherwise it's worthless. Remember when a dollar coin was ctually made from a dollar worth of silver? Nowadays money is just paper, nothing backs it up.

Re:How does it work without compromising the image (2)

schon (31600) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474573)

My understanding is that it's microscopic - the arrangement of the dots on the paper. To the naked eye, the copy is perfect, but under a microscope things are very different (same with plain B&W photocopiers.. ever looked at copies vs. originals under a microscope?)

Registering your software. (2)

canter (43098) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474574)

What good is a serial number that's not registered? None at all. It doesn't make sense in any context EXCEPT that we will be forced in the future to register our serial numbers. Creeping incrementalism at its finest.

hidden information in pictures (2)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474575)

There are techniques for hiding information into pictures. For example, some pgp 2.6.1 rpm's distribution comes with some stuff for this. If this was done, I don't know how you could remove it. Perhaps changing the image format a few times would remove it (and picture quality) from the conversions.

Re:Scanners (3)

Cuthalion (65550) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474576)

This is technology that Adobe licensed from [adobe.com] Digimarc [digimarc.com] .. One of Digimarc's services they offer is you pay them some money and they report any use of your image they found on the web. By keeping an eye on my logs, I've noticed their crawlers perusing my server several times. Though all of the images on my site are mine (MINE MINE MINE!), I still don't like this idea.

I wonder what sorts of transformations these technologys are impervious to.. Since they're looking for on the web for watermarked graphics, presumably colour reduction (gif) and/or jpeg compression artifacts don't disrupt things. Will a slight blur or rotation? Can you embed an extractable watermark on white noise?

Re:How do they link the printer to me? (3)

davie (191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474577)

The SN may not lead investigators to your printer, but if you're already a suspect and the good, er bad guys (it's so hard to remember which one the cops are these days) have your printer, they can prove that some insidious document was printed on your unit, then all they have to do is try to convince the nice folks on the jury that you were there when the document was printed.

Should we worry that someone has already come up with a universal printer make/model ID that appears on all color copies and that this little detail has remained a secret? How likely is it that ABC Copier Company would say "No" to a court order demanding the name, address, phone number of the customer on the warranty registration for a particular printer?

It would give a whole new meaning to "paper trail" (1)

Zulfiya (44302) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474578)

What if every color photocopy you made included a unique serial number to trace the page back to the copy machine? What if every color printer, down to the lowliest inkjet, printed an invisible watermark on every page it printed? What if every scanner included a watermark in every scan that was traceable back to the scanner?

Then it'd be a lot easier to catch me at making personal copies at work. Have we no freedoms left?

Of course, it would also be easier to catch those people from other cost units who keep using our color printer. That would show them. Curse those thieves.

Re:Scanners (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474579)

Well some might argue a strong case for
John F Kennedy...I think you know the when and
where :)

There have been numerous attempts to kill people
(like Castro). Who knows how many have been killed
by the CIA et al.

Of course...this is all completly besides the
point.

Would watermarks have prevented this? (1)

dputz (123998) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474580)

A story in a local paper today -online at: http://www.copleynewspapers.com/heraldnews/top/j08 money.htm I doubt that any serialization/watermarks would keep this sort of thing from happening. Someone who prints money that can't even pass at a high school concession stand isn't likely to care about a few odd marks in his copy.

Re:Scanners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474581)

What you are not counting on is that you could simply have a program that scans the image and looks for anything that is not necessary for the image in question then removes it.

For instance, any lossy compression scheme should be bad on the watermark.

(foreach pixelval (xor (and (random) 1) pixelval))

as a Kinkos color key-op (1)

damn_hippy (103167) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474582)

the fact is NO! color copier can produce a "perfect" copy

Re:No problem (1)

GoBears (86303) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474583)

... and you'll void your warranty at best and break the machine at worst (the copiers are designed not to work if the watermark circuitry is disabled).


not a problem for el-cheapo devices with a 90 day warranty. more problematic for anything used in a business, or that isn't on clearance at fry's, or that will likely require service during its warranty period.

How to fight this.. (2)

Weezul (52464) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474584)

What is the most effective way to fight this? I suppose we need to let the printer companies know that we have no intrest in purchasing watermarking printers.

Also, the whenever a printer company releases a new printer someone needs to find out if they have included watermarking.. and post it to slashdot if they have.. one would hope that we could make enough commotion regarding the printer to cost the company money.

Do any printers corrently on the market support these features? It seems to me we need to send a message to the companies that going allong with the Gov. will cost them money.

It is also a good idea to get out information on how to preform the hardware modifications to change the serial number as quickly as possible. It seems to me giving the script-kiddies the ability to get someone falsly convicted of counter fitting just by examining a page the someone printed out will go a long way towards killing these things.. and will force people to only purchase printers which do not use watermarks.

Any more suggestions?

Jeff

BTW> Actually, the false convictions thing is an excellent way to fight many of the `ID the public' government programs.

Re:Canon copiers (2)

Steve B (42864) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474585)

But, given the wide variety of designs used in US postage, how would a copier recognize a stamp?

If it did, wouldn't people get hosed by innocently copying an envelope for the address information?
/.

Re:Deja Vu All Over Again (2)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474586)

At one point [Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's] censors intercepted some anonymous letters addressed to Radio Free Europe, criticizing the Ceausescus' 'personality cult.' In a fit of rage, Ceausescu ordered
his security chiefs to get samples of the handwriting of every school child and adult Romanian, so that their handwriting experts could identify who had written the letters.

Additionally, he wanted every typewriter owned by the state registered with the Securitate, along with a sample of its type.

--Dr. James McCollum (Is Communism Dead Forever?)


What is interesting is that this is the same dictator who was finally ousted by the people after he failed to suppress a coup attempt against him and the media caught wind of it.

Noisy scanners (2)

Industrial Disease (16177) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474587)

This all sounds kind of suspect to me. AFAIK, there is a certain amount of noise involved in any existing method of digitally scanning an analog image. (In fact, SGI's LavaRand [sgi.com] random-number system is based on this principle.) I find it hard to believe that any "watermark" as well hidden within the image as the article suggests wouldn't be lost in the process of scanning it back into digital form.

Serial Number WaterMark (5)

cyanoacrylate (47864) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474588)

I saw some earlier concerns about the tracability of a particular printer... The watermark contains the serial number of the printer. Previous techniques of forensic science already allow us to identify printer makes and models, so the change in watermarking will not assist law enforcment at all (aside from possibly knowing which store the device was sold at), as long as you just don't fill out that product registration card...

Which no counterfeiter would do anyways.

So why bother at all? It will make printers more expensive, and the government thinks that they get a tool to assist them in enforcing the law, but doesn't really - other coroberative evidence will have to be collected to get near enough to the printer with the watermark to check, and then traditional forensic science techniques could be used.

Re:by the way (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474589)


Hah. I invoke the etoys.com tactic against thee!

Re:How does it work without compromising the image (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474590)

I can demonstrate exactly how it work. Next payday, grab your paycheck and try to photocopy it. See the Void image printed out? it's almost hidden on the real check, but shows up when copied. with color copies it's simular: They scan the document back into a copier with a unique formatter board. It picks up the original 'watermark' hidden in the document, and produces a print with the watermark clearly visible.

What about tracing it? (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474591)


I really don't understand the point of getting excited about this. The police can probably already match paper and ink, and minute impressions in the paper from handling to identify a specific printer.

All this would do is make the job slightly easier.

Dead tree copies aren't the big thing copyright holders would be afraid of, either. They are lossy copies.

The only major reason I could see this being worth anything would be to catch people printing kiddie porn or money.

Re:Canon copiers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474592)

I used to work at a copy center. Sometimes we copied money and scanned it in to Photoshop where we would do things like replace people's heads and such. Just for kicks. But it wouldn't work on US cash.. all it scanned/copied was black-green.

We did not, however, have to call a tech to fix anything due to black-green copies.

Re:Can't Cut it Out (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474593)

> But if you know the math behind the watermark,
> and you can extract it, you can erase it
> by watermarking with the complement of the
> original watermark. Naturally, this will be
> illegal.

Well I would think there would be othr ways
to defeat them. What if you add completely random
noise to the picture? just a little bit to each
pixel. I would imagine that might scramble the
marking a bit.

Of course...since no law requires watermarking,
it wouldn't be illegal at all. It would however
be illegal to print it out and try to pass it off
as cash (it MAY even be illegal just to print it
out but...thats iffy - they could certainly prove
intent)

what if you photocopy the front of an envelope... (2)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474594)

...for some reason, like a record of who it was sent too. Then your fscked up.

Re:Soviet Typewriters (1)

m.o (121338) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474595)

You see, it was not a big problem for those who wanted to distribute propaganda (and, more often, just "antisocialist" prose) - all you needed to do was to replace the heads (I don't know what they're called, but if you've seen a typewriter you know what I'm talking about) on the typewriter, that's it.

Even Primitive B&W Copies Can Be A Problem (1)

Steve B (42864) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474596)

There was a story in the Washington Post a few years ago about Metro (the DC-area subway system) losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because their Farecard machines would accept ordinary B&W photocopies of dollar bills. I understand they've closed the loophole now.
/.

New song, same dance... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474597)

There will be a thousand ways to circumvent such technology. The image, remember, has to eventually make it to paper.

So, then, let's assume that the watermark is inserted into the document at the hardware level; i.e., you can't send the printer any specific data to disable said watermark.

The first issue is old printers. I have an HP DeskJet 812C on my machine. Very nice resolution-- in fact, I could probably do counterfeit with it quite easily (if I had the patience to watch my printer run for hours on end). Strike one against the gov't-- it's too late to stop the old printers; criminals can just buy 'em second-hand.

The second issue is how fine a resolution the watermark will use. Will we wind up with watermarks on documents at 150 dpi? It'd be pretty pointless-- a counterfeit bill printed at that resolution would be pretty easily detected. But what if I can get a *very* precisely aligned printer that runs at 150 dpi, and print the same image (or layers of the same image, as it were) on the exact same location? It'd take some doing, but it could be done. If this proposal is to stop a "casual" counterfeit, then it may be useful, but I really doubt it-- it's going to be too easy to find out how to beat the watermarks.

Now, though, let's get to the real meat of the issue-- what if I have bad print heads? No, seriously! If I let the heads on my printer get clogged or whatever, it can result in a noticable reduction in print quality. So, if I can do it just right, I can print out my counterfeit bill at twice the needed resolution (i.e., the resolution needed to make it look real). Because the ink is running and bleeding and such, any watermark would most likely be destroyed. But the dollar bill might not look all that bad-- especially after I run it through the washing machine in my pants pocket once or twice (which many counterfeiters do, partially to make the dinginess seem more like regular wear and tear, and partially to give the bill a better texture).

I really doubt this proposal will go far. Even if it does, there will be ways around it. Don't worry yourself too much-- I know I won't...

It's not illegal to photocopy currency (1)

tdrury (49462) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474598)

If you enlarge or reduce it by 20% (IIRC). Lets say a photocopier rejects a currency copy if it is only enlarged +/- 20%. So, instead, I copy a $100 bill at 20% enlargement. That is legal. Then I can copy that large $100 and reduce it by 20%. Can the copier detect an enlarged bill? Will it know how much larger it is? Seems like you could defeat the copy protection.

Segfault should bring the comments back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1474599)

That is what he is trying to tell us. So we will be handsomely rewarded with his absence again. Maybe we should all write them about it.

(Anyway, Segfault should at least have the decency to come back. I can't access it since Sunday).

stores record serial numbers (2)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474600)

Well, when I last bought an HP 612C (a printer that's a few years old model), the store recorded the serial number off the box on the receipt (and in their computer system).

Re:Registering your software. (1)

ghoti (60903) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474601)

Hm, maybe there *is* a reason, why you have to register cars (and, in some countries, even weapons ;-), after all. But it still seems a little odd to be forced to show an ID just to buy a printer. But who knows, it might happen sooner than we expect ...

Re:Canon copiers (1)

slashdot-terminal (83882) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474602)

Canon color lasers (800, 1000, 2400, ect.) all have a board that recognizes things like money and postage stamps. If you try and copy any of these it will spit out all black copies, and will continue to do so until a Canon tech is
called. (They usualy call the Secret Service)


Actually sounds like fun. Maybe I will try it and get back to you (with a desguise of course). I doubt it.

Maybe it is/will be in the Windows drivers (1)

blues star (112410) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474603)

I don't think it is feasible to put this into el-cheapo scanners and printers nowadays, it is too compute-intensive and hence too expensive. The host computer OTOH has a lot of cycles to burn, so if I had to design such a system I'd put it in the drivers. This has the additional benefit that I can throw in a few other ids for good measure (Windows serial no / Ethernet HW-address / Pentium III id or whatever).

Re:Scanners (1)

Kyobu (12511) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474604)

Salvador Allende, the democratically-elected, democratic-socialist president of Chile, was assassinated in a CIA-backed coup which resulted in the establishment of the Pinochet dictatorship. This is well-documented. Also, according to recently declassified CIA papers, we have tried (and failed) several times to kill Fidel Castro.

Actually, this is being worked on... (2)

Millennium (2451) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474605)

Check the newer designs. They've been in use for several years now, but because of the way the Treasury decided to do it they haven't made their way into the smaller bills yet. So far $20 bills and higher have been converted; $10 is due in 2000 (with $5 in 2001, and finally $1 in 2002). Security threads, watermarks, moire-inducing patterns, and my personal favorite, the color-shifting ink. This, along with the red and blue fibers, hidden pictures (like the spider on the current $1 bill), the paper itself (yes, the paper itself is considered a security feature; many counterfieters have been caught when cashiers realized that the paper didn't feel right), and the other stuff from the current bills.

I don't like the look of the new bills as much (except for the aforementioned color-shifting ink, which is simply too damn cool for words). But they should work a lot better for this sort of thing.

Yeah, the US bills were certainly due for an update (no changes at all since the mid-70's, and no major changes since the 1920's). But they're getting it, finally. I think it would have been cooler to print the whole bill with the color-shifting ink, though.

Why is this a bad idea? (1)

DrakkhenCraft (115001) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474606)

It sounds like something that cold be used to pervent or stop crimes like counterfiting, copyright infringement, ect.

Re:Scanners (1)

Kyobu (12511) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474607)

Well, actually, they did kill Patrick Henry.

Re:Bad Idea (2)

NormHome (99305) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474609)

I agree that this is ridiculous. But as far as the any company who did do it, how would the average person know? I had no idea that some companies already did something like this until I read this. As for a reason to vigorously fight this type of thing, let me pose a hypothetical situation. For example say person X had serious moral objections to Scientology (just for the sake of argument, no disparagement implied) and waged an anonymous campaign against what he perceived to be wrong. Some people could agree with him others maybe not. But the Scientologist's having a lot of money and power use the watermark etc on his copied fliers to track him down and either sue him or whatever. Is the fact that they located person X and possibly shut him down a breach of free speech? I think that this sort of thing has very serious implications much wider than what it appears to be on the surface.

Re:How do they link the printer to me? (2)

schon (31600) | more than 14 years ago | (#1474612)

Pretty simple.. by the serial number.. they ask the manufacturer, who finds the distributor, who finds the user/person who purchased it.

(OK, maybe not _THAT_ simple :o)

They generally rely on the fact because color copiers cost thousands of dollars, that nobody ever pays cash for one, so there is a paper trail to follow...

It's not flawless (yes, you could pay in cash, and wear a disguise and surgical gloves, and drive away in a stolen van with false plates..) but it's enough to give them a starting place to look for their suspect.

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