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Digital Watermarks to Replace DRM

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the now-we're-getting-somewhere dept.

Privacy 374

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

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374 comments

I don't really care. (5, Insightful)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22015920)

DRM is a Bad Thing, IMO. It restricts your choice and prevents you from playing the media you bought in the way you want to.

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

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

Something to think about.

Re:I don't really care. (5, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016008)

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

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

So they're both useless and harmful.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016050)

If they haven't figured out a way to actually encrypt the watermarks, they're more stupid than I thought.

In that case, I still don't care, because if something is that easily duplicated it's worthless anyway.

Re:I don't really care. (2, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016098)

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

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

It's no wonder you're not concerned when you don't even understand the issues.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016112)

That's assuming you have an unwatermarked copy of the file, right?

Re:I don't really care. (4, Informative)

Asmor (775910) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016170)

No...

Let's take a sentence as an example:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

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

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

By comparing each of those sentences, you see the first few characters are different in each, thus you can assume that's where the watermark is.

Re:I don't really care. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016250)

Uh, there are much much more clever ways to watermark a file for which such a comparison would be useless. The method you describe is absurdly basic.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016300)

Since I would like to salvage some semblance of "I was right" in this thread, can you outline one or two of them?

Re:I don't really care. (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016410)

Care of Jonathan Cummins, Patrick Diskin, Samuel Lau and Robert Parlett of the School of Computer Science, The University of Birmingham. [bham.ac.uk]

unremovability being one of their key points.

(DISCLAIMER: I have no idea on any of these things, google just happens to exist)

Re:I don't really care. (2, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016532)

Did you read that? They talk mostly about steganography and watermarks and note that the information can be robust to one transformation but is generally destroyed by several. They mention fingerprinting, which is really what this thread is about, where a different watermark is applied to every copy, but they certainly don't imply that it's not removable or undetectable. The chart at the beginning suggests that it would be desirable if the fingerprint was not removable.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016772)

Ah crap in a hat =)

Just saw the title page and thought it seemed apt, then the table shortly thereafter.

As disclaimed, was a random googlery.

Re:I don't really care. (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016426)

It doesn't matter WHAT you do, you can still FIND the watermark just by comparing a few copies of the song. Once you've found it, you can scramble it. You can't recover the original, unwatermarked version, but you can mess up the watermark.

Sophisticated watermarking techniques protect the watermark IF there is only one, ie all copies have the same watermark. Then you can't compare multiple, differently watermarked copies and so you can't find the watermark. It makes it much harder to mess up when you don't know where it is.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016270)

I thought watermarking was more of a subtle change in the content itself.

The Quick Brown fpx jfmped ower the laay dpg

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

Sigh. Guess you're right, thanks for the education.

Re:I don't really care. (5, Informative)

spitzak (4019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016364)

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

Averaging would seem to work but supposedly the algorithims can survive quite a lot of coverage with random noise. If the watermarks are sparse enough, all that averaging will do is make a result that has *all* the watermarks of the originals. What they do need to do is avoid having huge numbers of different watermarks, as I doubt it will survive tens of thousands of different samples being averaged. This is probably a reason there will not be per-user watermarks.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016508)

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

Then you're screwing up the music with noise and the people buying it would be better off just to download a copy ripped from CD. You're also loading up your servers with a huge amount of processing required to produce a different version of the entire file for each customer.

In the very worst case, a pirate just has to decompress the audio from a few different copies of the same file and find the bits that differ. Zero or interpolate those bits and recompress... of course, again, you'd be better off just downloading a copy ripped direct from CD.

Re:I don't really care. (5, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016650)

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

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

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

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

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

Re:I don't really care. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016632)

I seriously doubt every single byte is changed, but I can see each block of music being changed.

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

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

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

More copies would make it more robust, of course.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

philicorda (544449) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016810)

There is no problem with millions of water marks.

Embedding just 32 bits of data gives you enough individual codes for 4.3 billion people.

It's quite easy to hide 32bits in three minutes of audio, even with with massive redundancy to prevent circumvention.

Re:I don't really care. (3, Interesting)

Reziac (43301) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016726)

What happens to such a watermark if the file is significantly reprocessed?

Better watermarking (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016792)

j498fn894The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

In this example, you make the assumption that you only have enough information encoded in the original content to encode the watermarking. You can always add more filler information to the system to make it much more difficult to detect the watermark. To rephrase your example, I combine the small mark with additional noise. It's difficult to do this with plaintext, but there's all sorts of room you could stick things in a waveform, which, when you think about it, is incredibly vast. I could probably throw off the sound of the music by an incredibly tiny amount, on every quadword, with really what is almost random noise. And, then, I could bury the watermark in that.

So, if the watermark was an encrypted name and credit card number (which I would do if I were them, as a deterrent), then, we're really talking less than 100 bytes, assuming a western character set. Against the several megabytes of an entire song, this is really chump change. Encoding personal information into purchased digital content is an excellent way to deter piracy.

Re:I don't really care. (4, Informative)

CrazedWalrus (901897) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016422)

I would think it's possible to detect using two watermarked as well.

Think about this as a watermark:

1234JustShootMe567
1234CrazedWalrus567

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

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

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

Re:I don't really care. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016682)

then if you have two files from two different users, you can bitwise-or, zero-out, or otherwise destroy the information wherever the bits differ between the files. Since they're necessarily in an insignificant part of the signal, the music probably won't sound noticeably different.

Better yet- go with 3 versions, and take the majority opinion on it.

As any such maneuver is going to have to leave the vast majority of the signal alone, you'd have relatively few intersecting bits that are part of the signal - and about as effective in court as a blood type match or extremely partial fingerprint as vs a DNA match or full fingerprint.

Not Enough Credit (3, Informative)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016686)

While I agree that people are going to break this, I don't think you are giving enough credit to the engineers and acedemics working on this problem. Read this linked article and you will see that it's far more complex than just bit twiddling (although clearly there will be differences in the bits ultimately).
http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:kNuSjbUY1iYJ:www.fxpal.com/publications/FXPAL-PR-03-212.pdf+watermarking+audio&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us [209.85.173.104]

Re:I don't really care. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016654)

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

You can screw with it as much as you like, but it's impossible to remove the watermark without destroying the audio.
Don't think of it as a succession of samples that can be compared. Think about it, how can you find a tone by looking at single samples? Pseudo random wandering frequency tones are one of the methods used.

Also, you need to be able to tell if you were successful in removing it, which is impossible without the decryption tools.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

a_claudiu (814111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016852)

they can be trivially found by a simple byte compare
Not necessarily. All the DVD's, CD's can be filled with redundant data so the difference between them will be hard to interpret. You can see the difference but not being able to read it.. It will be easier to delete the watermark, or at least to make it unreadable. But maybe the studios will say that possessing a not watermarked copy is illegal.
Another idea: just sign the watermark.

Re:I don't really care. (2, Insightful)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016700)

Well, watermarks are harmful in that sense if they're accepted as evidence into court, which is tantamount to accepting the RIAA's word that they didn't just manufacture evidence out of nothing with the intent of framing random people. Third parties can be prevented from framing people in this manner with an encryption scheme, but that doesn't help us when the RIAA itself isn't to be trusted. On the other hand, all this assumes that watermarks are intended to make it to court - perhaps the intent is instead to tie a leaked copy to a user account and that user's IP address, which can then be monitored for other infringing activity.

Of course, even if watermarks weren't considered foolproof evidence by themselves, they could still be used to support the kinds of RIAA cases we see today. I doubt a jury would care whether they could technically be faked.

Re:I don't really care. (2, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016060)

That's a big "unless", though. Are we coming to the point where we're going to have to file police reports when you get hacked so that you won't be liable for the distribution of stolen music? What about liability insurance for watermarked music?
That's exactly the sort of privacy concern I have concerning widespread use of watermarking. Any time a unique identifier could be used to track something after it's been sold (whether it's digital or physical), these concerns come up. I think of parallels to unique tracker chips (perhaps uniquely encoded RFID chips) being embedded in all sorts of stuff; what if a guy kills someone with a kitchen knife he stole from your house that happens to have such a chip in it? An extreme example, sure... but it would make defending yourself more complicated.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016708)

How about the kitchen knife you threw away six months ago because you bought a better set?

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

Just make sure that if somebody steals your MP3 player that you report it stolen so the music companies are forced to shrug when they show up on the file sharing systems.

I don't care either. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016092)

I'm not supposed to share music I bought? Says who? If I buy an album I can lend it to my friend, I can even make him a copy, why shouldn't I be able to do the same with this? Actually I don't care about drm or watermarking either, I stopped buying music and films a long time ago.

Why should anyone give these rotten corporations more money when they're trying to screw us over every chance they get?

Something to think about.

Re:I don't care either. (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016172)

Says who?


Pretty much the entire federal government.

Re:I don't care either. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016662)

Pretty much the entire federal government.
Fortunately your federal government isn't mine so I don't have to care about what they say.

Re:I don't care either. (4, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016288)

I was with right up to the point you said "I can even make him a copy". No, you cannot legally make him a copy, unless you obtain permission from the publisher of the album (i.e., record label, artist, etc). I could make a CD of nothing but my wife snoring, and I own the copyright to it; you'd run a risk of getting sued for copyright infringement if you distributed copies to your friends (God only knows why you'd want to, but then again, some modern music isn't much better than my wife snoring).

Re:I don't care either. (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016322)

Your wife snoring could indeed be music, depending on how you tired her out.

That gives me an idea of safe for work pr0n. :)

"We won't give you any details on why, but she's sleeping now, and here's proof..zzzzzzzz"

Oh yes I can. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016516)

Actually I CAN legally make copies for my friends. Most of the worlds population doesn't live in USA and I just happen to be one of those who don't. I live in Sweden. The only thing stopping me from making those legal copies is that I don't have any originals, why would I when I can get it all for free :)

Re:I don't care either. (1)

thisissilly (676875) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016788)

I was with right up to the point you said "I can even make him a copy". No, you cannot legally make him a copy,

Actually, I believe he can make a non-commercial copy, under the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, section 1008 which legalized "home taping"

"No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings."

Re:I don't really care. (1)

xigxag (167441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016464)

The record companies already know that watermarking isn't going to deter a determined filesharer. Watermarks can be easily reverse-engineered and stripped, making the file safe for you to "save" without fear of it being stolen, and honestly, who's gonna bother to hack into a computer to "steal" mp3's when the stuff is available for free at every filesharing site in existence?

Not to mention, there's deniability at every stage. My credit card was stolen, my PC was hacked, my iPod was stolen, someone registered using my name, a friend reverse-transcribed my watermark onto an mp3 as a joke, etc. Nobody's going to prosecute on the strength of watermarks alone, although they may be used as proof in conjunction with other stuff. I.e., what if some "pirate" has a cache of stolen credit cards PLUS a hard drive full of mp3s with various people's watermarks? That can be used as evidence to show ID theft. Etc.

And of course, iTunes have already been using watermarks since forever. But, being Apple, somehow that's OK and superior to normal watermarking, I'm sure.

Re:I don't really care. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016526)

"But watermarking? Eh. I don't care."

Same here. That's something that impressed me about Apple's non-DRM approach. The file is labelled in a standard way with information I already provided to them when I purchased the tracks. It's not much different from writing my name inside the CD cases to mitigate the risk if someone tries to steal and resell them. I can demonstrate the CDs are mine. And, like that analogy, if I really wanted to re-anonymize the media, I could do so (by blotting out the information on the CD case, or by stripping out the information from the digital track). I have no interest in distributing copyrighted media without permission, so having the watermark doesn't affect my interests in the least. As long as the party providing the media I'm buying clearly discloses how the material is watermarked and what information is included (i.e. I want to KNOW that my credit card number isn't secretly embedded in there, or something equally stupid), I'm fine with it.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016630)

For that reason, it's probably critical to examine the terms you agree to when you sign up for a download service that uses this technology. I would not at all be surprised if they added in a clause that makes you responsible for any copyright infringement that occurs using your copy, regardless of whether it was you or someone else that did the actual sharing. Without an explicit agreement, the burden would be on them to prove that you were responsible, and not some third party. Not that that would stop them from suing you anyway.

Re:I don't really care. (1)

xigxag (167441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016876)

First, click-thru contract be damned, they still have to convince a judge in court that you should be held responsible.

Second, even if you're deemed in breach of contract and have to compensate them for their actual losses or some agreed upon penalty, I don't see how you could be liable for the statutory infringment if they can't establish that you engaged in tortious behavior or didn't contribute through negligence.

I agree... (1)

mr_zorg (259994) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016762)

I'm with you. As long as said watermarks don't interfere with my enjoyment of the content, I'm 100% ok with it.

Watermarks (1, Informative)

saibot834 (1061528) | more than 6 years ago | (#22015926)

Watermarks are still DefectiveByDesign [defectivebydesign.org]

Re:Watermarks (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016192)

that's a typically reactionary response- how does a watermark make a produce defective? it's not interfering with my playback or use of the digital file. it doesn't prevent me from making a million copies of the file for my computers, ipod, thumbdrive, etc. it's information that's only useful if i do something illegal. this is like putting your name on your luggage.

Re:Watermarks (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016756)

On the other hand it's like how useful gun registration ideas are - when most of the guns used in crimes are stolen.

Sure, they can track it back to Joe homeowner... Who reported it stolen in a burglary six months ago.

How would you like to be sued for copyright infringement when somebody steals your iPod and uploads all your files.

Just the scenario is enough to make gaining convictions on that detail alone almost impossible.

Re:Watermarks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016550)

Uh, how did *that* get moderated as informative? Maybe if you said why, or at least linked to a page that directly treated why watermarks are a problem, I could buy that, but all you're doing is spreading around a link almost everyone here knows about.

Re:Watermarks (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016818)

If I hadn't posted to this conversation, I'd mod you down as overrated. Back that up with a definition of DBD that supports your claim, or retract it.

Subject to a Huge Failure (5, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 6 years ago | (#22015950)

When p2p groups apply simple scramble audio sequences that can't be heard. Better yet, when you burn a song onto a CD as an audio file, and then re-rip the song (as recently disclosed by Sony), then you get a clean copy.

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

What they really need to do is make some music that's worth paying for.

Re:Subject to a Huge Failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016728)

If it's not worth paying for why would you download it? You still end up paying in the bandwidth it takes to get the file. The only real answer is don't download it if it's not worth paying for.

Re:Subject to a Huge Failure (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016844)

Why does burning to and ripping from a CD remove watermarks? Does reencoding destroy the mark? If not, I can't see why creating perfect digital copies would remove information.

"Disclosed"? (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016886)

Sony wasn't exactly telling anyone anything new. It has always been the case that any DRMed format that can be burned to an audio CD can be overcome by ripping it from the CD. But you do get a major decrease in the audio quality when you do that.

What I would be curious to know is whether this even works with watermarking. If the watermark is actually in the audio stream, I would think that if you did a lossless rip of the CD the watermark would still be there. Probably not nearly as easily detected if their detection software is looking for audio in a certain format, but still there nonetheless. Basically I would think that the watermark would only go away if you rip the CD (or just transcode the music) to such a low quality file that something as subtle as a watermark can't survive.

Give and Take (4, Insightful)

Joker1980 (891225) | more than 6 years ago | (#22015956)

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

Re:Give and Take (5, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016706)

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

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

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

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

Re:Give and Take (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016802)

"Most people are calling for some reasonable give and take"

That sounds reasonable. The problem is that reasonable give and take was established a very long time ago. The record labels are not asking for unreasonable give and take. Meeting me half way isn't reasonable if I've already traveled half way, and you are saying half way from where we are now.

There's an easy tecnhical solution... (4, Interesting)

spikenerd (642677) | more than 6 years ago | (#22015960)

Download it under two accounts, then average the waves together. The watermark will be ruined, and the sound quality will stay at least as good as before. Problem solved. Of course you'll have to pay twice, but if you're paying the right price, 2x0=0.

Re:There's an easy tecnhical solution... (5, Insightful)

cliffski (65094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016396)

This is a solution to what problem exactly?
The proposed solution is DRM-free high quality tracks, where *if* you leak it onto a file-sharing site, then you can be traced. How is this a bad thing?
You seem to think this is a problem, but I can only see this being a problem from the POV of pirates, and people determined to leech music for free.

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

People complained that they pirated because the music had DRM, and the DRM is going. People complained the music was too expensive, and itunes led to way lower prices. Now what is the excuse?

Re:There's an easy tecnhical solution... (1)

timothyf (615594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016720)

This is a potential solution for people who are concerned about privacy and liability. Sure, it would be nice if the world worked in a sane way, but the potential for someone to get the book thrown at them for doing something that wasn't a really big deal is still there.

Or consider the possibility (mentioned elsewhere on this thread) that someone got malware on their system that leaked their entire watermarked collection to the net? They've done nothing wrong, of course, but the watermark doesn't capture what actually happened, it just says these songs are owned by person X and they're now being freely distributed over the net. Even if it's shown that malware was involved in the leak, could you then be sued for negligence? I agree that carefully crafted laws could mitigate the problem, but it'd take lawmakers with a clue to do it.

In either case, if someone wants to avoid that particular hassle, circumventing the watermark in this way might be desirable to them. It's recognizing imperfections and potential flaws in the system, not complaining, IMHO.

I do think it's a step in the right direction, but I don't think that means that the consequences of that step shouldn't be weighed by everyone involved, consumer, industry and government alike.

Re:There's an easy tecnhical solution... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016734)

"assuming the record companies only target the hardcore"

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

Where's the link to that story where the RIAA completely ignores hardcore commercial pirating right under their noses while suing sick people and single mothers?

Re:There's an easy tecnhical solution... (1)

thisissilly (676875) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016894)

where *if* you leak it onto a file-sharing site, then you can be traced. How is this a bad thing?

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

  • What happens if someone swipes your mp3 player and then uploads all your tracks to p2p?
  • Or your computer gets pwned, and the files are copied off your disk without your approval or knowledge?
  • Or someone steals your Credit Card #, uses it to buy a bunch of watermarked mp3s, and then uploads them to p2p?
In all three cases, you are liable to be sued for actions you had nothing to do with.

Re:There's an easy tecnhical solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016908)

I hope they do abandon DRM but real pirates won't care buying two copies and XORing them. Just doing that will fuck up the watermarking and leave the movie intact.

Re:There's an easy tecnhical solution... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016502)

Or worse, that averaging of the two waves might make the watermark equal some 3rd watermark that belongs to John Doe in another state who then has to take the blame if the modified mp3 ends up on p2p networks. I'll still rip my own from CDs ktkzbye.

can't track with watermarking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016004)

If you pay with cash at the music store. So who cares.

Tracking Flow of Watermarks (4, Insightful)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016018)

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

Re:Tracking Flow of Watermarks (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016094)

Exactly. I think it would be very difficult to prove intent in any of these cases.

Re:Tracking Flow of Watermarks (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016330)

In the absence of intent, expect people to try to produce negligence. This has happened in cases in unsecured network access by people perpetrating crimes online.

Re:Tracking Flow of Watermarks (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016684)

An excellent reason to wait for someone to buy the CD with cash (or shoplift it), then download the copy. Once again, DRM makes piracy the only reasonable course of action!

Re:Tracking Flow of Watermarks (2, Interesting)

schmiddy (599730) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016714)

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

However, one place they're finally catching on, that I'm amazed has taken them so long, is in pre-release DVD screeners. I hear that if you check out a DVD screener of "I am Legend" floating around, you'll see messages at the bottom saying "This movie is intended only for pre-screening and is digitally watermarked". Perhaps they're also sneaking it into pre-release CDs intended for DJs or production artists as well, I don't know.

Also, to the people claiming you could just download the MP3 from two accounts.. that's a good idea, provided they don't have a simple parity scheme in place. You also can't easily download from two accounts, or get two DVDs, in the case of special pre-releases intended for a very limited audience.

Re:Tracking Flow of Watermarks (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016758)

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

Only A Short Time (1)

LightningJim2 (1149233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016040)

...before ways around this "digital watermark" are found. It always happens. Anyone remember how long it took for HD-DVD to be cracked? Also, I have already seen a couple of good examples of possible ways already in this discussion.

Re:Only A Short Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016090)

...before ways around this "digital watermark" are found. It always happens....

no kidding. You're one of the first 10 posters, and two technical solutions to watermarking have already been made prior to your post!

Re:Only A Short Time (1)

NothingMore (943591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016148)

Removing the watermark should not be that hard to do (since warez groups already do this with DVD-Screeners). The real question would be why would anyone want to do this? Warez groups can obtain higher quality rips directly from the CD and the watermark will most likely not hinder playback on music devices. As long as they dont include my SSN or Credit Card Number in the watermark itself there will not be any real need to remove the watermark.

Re:Only A Short Time (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016314)

You are assumming the watermark can be seen.

If they have any intelligence, the program that detects the watermark will be kept secret. Without a way to tell whether you have removed the watermark, it is impossible to tell if you have done so.

Of course the problem is that there are clueless people in power who will think they can use the watermark to make a device refuse to play "pirated" content. As soon as they do this, the watermark will become useless, because there is now a trivial method to detect if you have successfully removed the watermark. This I think is the most likely downfall of this scheme.

Re:Only A Short Time (1)

Lobachevsky (465666) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016680)

It's _Extremely_ easy to remove watermarking. Buy 2 mp3 files, decompress them to WAV, keep them sync'd, then average them, then compress them back to .MP3 (all these steps can be pipelined because they're all streaming operations). There, you've just completely obliterated whatever steganography was in it while having perfectly good audio. In fact, the audio will have BETTER quality because the manipulation done by the steganography was, on average, reversed.

And yes, I am a cryptography expert with experience in steganography.

Re:Only A Short Time (2, Interesting)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016556)

What would a "way around" the watermark do? Presumably it would allow you to share the music you bought without the possibility of it being traced back to you. However, unlike DRM, there is no way to be sure if you have removed every watermark. If today's watermarking techniques are successfully reverse engineered, the industry can introduce new techniques without breaking compatibility with CD players etc. And in any case, removing watermarks might degrade the quality of the recording. There might be more than one watermark in each file, and some watermarks might be present in multiple copies of the same recording in order to defeat a simple differencing attack.

Watermarking is a good idea, I say. In the end I want people to be able to make money from intellectual property, whether it is music, software, video, books, whatever. But information is easily copied, so there is a need to discourage piracy without inconveniencing paying customers. DRM doesn't meet that need, but maybe watermarking does.

Trust (3, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016044)

I'm not necessarily against watermarking, but:

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

So we trust Sony now, do we? Why does that not seem like a good idea? Not that Universal is likely to be more trustworthy, but they're more of an unknown than Sony.

Re:Trust (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016384)

What's the point of individual watermarking if it can't be traced to an individual? I guess they could just use it for statistics. Out of 1,000,000 who downloaded the song, 100,000 of them shared it on P2P networks. I see how they could use stuff like this for ammo to make the government extend copyright even longer then it already is.

Logical disconnect. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016592)

I think the first part of your post is fine, but when you get to the part about the government extending copyright I think your reasoning got all mixed up. Why would the act of breaking a law provoke the government to extend the lifetime of coverage under the law? I think it more likely that the government might be coerced to enforce harsher penalties for infringement instead.

Re:Trust (2, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016750)

***What's the point of individual watermarking if it can't be traced to an individual?***

Non-individualized watermarks won't tell anyone if you are deliberately using illegal copies in your music or movie collection. In all probability, everyone's collection will include some illegal copies. Even the collections of people who actually TRY to stay legal. But watermarks should help in identifying people who are systematically selling or renting illegal copies. If Sleazy Sammy's Junkmart has 200 copies of the same CD with the same watermark in the warehouse, it's a pretty safe bet that Sammy or his supplier is making illegal copies. Judges and juries will likely see it that way also.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll end up with something everyone can live with. The AAs ignore low level personal file sharing, and the serious pirates do jail time. I wouldn't bet on it though.

I'm in favor of ANYTHING that might stop wasting my time with copy protection/prevention schemes that don't work well and/or right and/or prevent me from backing up their fragile distribution media. That would seem to be all of them.

Ho hum (2, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016054)

Take two official copies, work out where differences are, remove said differences. Goodbye watermark

CD (1)

in2mind (988476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016118)

Watermarking codes are digitally woven into the fabric of a download and do not restrict listeners from making backup copies or sharing music with friends, as does DRM coding.
So no watermarks on CD? or No CD at all?

Re:CD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016856)

The point of a watermark is for each one to be different. Making a new master disc for every CD produced is not exactly cost effective.

Price Issue (1)

guy5000 (1211440) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016156)

Wouldn't the price and complexity of uniquely creating watermarks for each copy of a file be a obstacle. Tags composed of text (iTunes) are one thing but audio watermarks are very different.

Re:Price Issue (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016434)

Probably not. There would only be a few (possibly many, but not more that 1000) servers that would be serving content. Include in each one, a special chip that can watermark a stream, at very high speed. TV Tuners have chips that encode in MPEG, which means you can use your computer as a PVR without even affecting the CPU. I don't see why a similar chip couldn't be made to process the outgoing streams an attach watermarks to them.

Botnet (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016200)

The music will just be bought by unsuspecting members of a botnet and put on the internet. Then what?

Re:Botnet (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016424)

You mean:

1) Have music be bought by unsuspecting members of a botnet and put on the internet.
2) ???
3) Profit!

Re:Botnet (1)

mmmiiikkkeee (930217) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016474)

Then when other people download it we have proof that they(the other people) were doing something 'wrong'(if there actions are out side of fair use). This means we have have our fair use rights back!!! Well as long as we keep the responsibility with the person that has the file and _not_ the person who may of shared the file. Its a big step forward from DRM at least in my view.

Re:Botnet (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016658)

Hum no. You can already prove that someone is not doing something "wrong", just let a trusted third party keep track of the online purchases and there you have it.

The watermark is not intended here to prove it's yours but to discourage people from releasing their bought copy on the internet... the principle it that most copies of a song originate from the same person generally, so if you crack down on one user, you can get back to the original diffuser. This is the all point of watermarking, threatening the supply rather than the demand. Of course it breaks because one can copy a paid version from an unsuspecting victim and release it at no risk.

I don't have a problem with that. (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016272)

As long as I can burn my music onto CDs or listen to them any way I want on any device I like, who cares that they are watermarked? In fact, why would anyone (who purchased the music) care? Of course, if watermarking would degrede the music quality, then I would be worried - I don't know that it does, yet.

Cinea v. Watermarking = Inconvenience v. Paranoia (5, Interesting)

Franklin Brauner (1034220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016332)

I'm an Academy member (AMPAS), and I can tell you that the only benefit of membership is that at year end they send you every movie made that year on DVD. It's quite nice. There's a mad December-January rush to cram in every possible film. I'd hate to lose my membership because the DVD I loaned to my friends were ripped and torrented all over Christendom. The Academy is now in the habit of unceremoniously kicking out members when it's found that they've contributed to the piracy of a film (many are pre-release). So I'm usually fairly cautious.

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

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

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

Re:Cinea v. Watermarking = Inconvenience v. Parano (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016372)

The fear and paranoia in this case is entirely self inflicted.

The solution is simple - don't lend the DVDs to your mother.

Re:Cinea v. Watermarking = Inconvenience v. Parano (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016790)

Cinea doesn't support their machine and I'm stuck with this crap player that I had my son beat it to death with a sledgehammer the other day, as I videotaped the ceremony.
Coolest .... Dad .... Ever!

!new (2, Insightful)

igorthefiend (831721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016352)

When I was at university writing for the music section of the newspaper, we used to fairly regularly receive CDs from the likes of BMG (Tom McRae's "Just Like Blood" arrived like this in Jan of 2003, the earliest example I remember, but it may predate that) these had individual serial numbers and names, and claimed to be watermarked to us as individuals, lest we dare leak the music. I always assumed it could be defeated by a bit by bit comparison against the retail copy - presumably the difference would be the watermark, and I don't see why that wouldn't also be true here?

free open source watermark removing software (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016412)

in two months time

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

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

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

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

just adapt to the new reality, or die off

What it'll actually be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22016460)

Some fat guy in the background of the recording saying "This recording is property of Sony."

No limit in fair use rights (0)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016512)

Watermarks do not limit the right a user have under copyright law, unless DRM which use technical means to circumvent the law.

Watermarks works *with* the law, not against it.

DRM is an affront to anyone who believe in copyright law. Watermarks is only an affront to those who don't believe in copyright law.
 

Where is the middle ground? (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016598)

Watermarking would seem to end the fair use argument so what's left? I don't want to pay? In truth is that the real issue? Being able to freely distribute to friends was never a part of copyright law. You do benefit from the act, you give friend a couple of copied albums you bought so they feel warmer towards you but the artist doesn't benefit other than getting their work out there which doesn't pay his/her bills. Is there a middle ground with DRM paid music on one hand and free as beer on the other that would satisfy most users? Some will never be happy paying so they aren't a factor. Forget end cost for now what system would make people happy and still give the company and/or artist some control over the distribution of their work?

spread spectrum frequency domain watermarking (2, Interesting)

dangil (167785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016712)

I developed a very basic spread spectrum frequency domain watermarking that can resist to reencoding and be very transparent spreading the bits of information across different frequencies. if you analyze the encoding, you can use the frequencies that the encoder gives more importance and store bits there for increased reenconding strength. or you can use less important frequencies to really hide the watermarking, and also assure that the audio wasn't reencoded or touched. the spread spectrum technology can assure that you distort the minimum amount possible each frequency. and by choosing random frequencies for each audio frame, based on a pseudo-random number generator, you can really hide the watermarking... using CDMA techniques , if you don't know what you are looking for, when comparing the watermarked audio with a clean sample, you will only recover some noise.

Re:spread spectrum frequency domain watermarking (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016828)

That "noise" is the watermark. Sure, you can't read it unless you know the details of how it was encoded, but you can certainly mess it up. The easiest way would be to take two differently watermarked copies and average them. Bye bye watermark. If you're paranoid then write some of your own bit modifications into the regions where you detected the original watermarks to make sure.

Transcoding (2, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22016786)

I'd love to see an inaudible/invisible water mark that can survive transcoding from MP3 to ogg, or from MPEG4 to MJPEG for example.
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