Friday, December 23, 2005

DRM and watermarks

I came across a reference talking about watermarking digital content, instead of using DRM.

Essentially, DRM will never work, because data read to be played is indistinguishable from data read to be copied. Worse, it will inconvenience the honest customers so much that pirate version become more appealing - such as being unable to play your legally-bought iTunes music on your legally-bought Xbox, whereas a pirate copy off P2P will work flawlessly.

Of course, there are those in the industry that like it this way: Non-compatible DRM means that you have to buy multiple copies of the same thing: A DVD movie, a PC movie, a PSP movie, etc. But mostly, they use the defence of "Yes, DRM is not perfect, but there's no better solutions, so. . . "

But there is at least one. It's called watermarking. The basic principle is this:

You create an account with (a) digital media supplier(s). An account that verifies exactly who you are, via credit card or national ID card or whatnot.

You then buy your digital content. Only the content has 'invisible' data embedded in it, identifying which account it was sold to.

You can then do anything you like with the content, just as you can with existing media: Rip the DVD movie to your PC, copy it onto your PSP or iPod, play it on your Xbox, whatever. You can even put it on P2P if you want.

But the difference is, when the copyright owner finds out their stuff is being pirated, they can tell exactly who owns the copy originally uploaded. In other words, if you put a copy of the movie online, they will know it was you that put that copy online, and they will come after you.

Of course, it's still not perfect: You might innocently lend your shop-bought DVD to a friend, only for him to rip it upload it without your knowledge. Somebody might steal your account details via phishing or the like.

But it doesn't need to be perfect, because DRM is so imperfect. It's a better system than exists right now: It dissuades casual piracy without preventing legal, fair use of the content you bought. And if somebody does put out a pirate copy, there's at least a place to start an investigation to find the perpetrator, unlike right now, where a cracked DRM scheme gives you nothing.


titanium said...

I like this idea, of course it has some bugs but yeah, it's better than CRIPPLING the music. You have a driver's license and speed limits, but that doesn't stop you speeding in an emergency. There is no crippling going on.

4:12 PM  
Marcos Dumay de Medeiros said...

Unless you get a way of removing the watermark. And there is always a way. You can always compress the data until there is nothing unaudible there.
Repeat after me: There is no prfect digital data protection! Well, unless nobody have a computer... That is what the trusted computing initiative is about, taking the computers out of people reach.

3:24 AM  
Cameron Daniel said...

Cedega uses a technique similar to this in the archives it distributes. While it has nothing to do with multimedia, it is the method they have chosen to trace back who is buying Cedega and distributing it on torrent networks etc.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous said...

DRM is much better then watermarks.

For the simple reason that the content owner does not earn there due for the person playing the content.

Let’s say I went to Kazaa and downloaded a Video file, I can play it and yes I see the brand of the real owner but that does not mean I will go to there site to buy more. I can just go back to P2P and download more of there content. And the content owner does not make his or her dues.

It is like a builder who makes a house but is stolen. They do not earn there living.
And the last comment is you can watermark a video file but not an audio file.

DRM is good for all, the content owner and the end user.

4:14 PM  
rosemi said...

What's the point of watermarking it? I mean: what's the point of stopping the free flow of information on the internet?

We have a wonderful creation here, that have allowed hundreds of thousands of teenagers to learn Photoshop, millions of people have discovered music and movies from cultures and genres they never would have been able to, without this un-regulated society

It's not about the files. It's about the internet being free or not free. A watermarking system that would work (which i very much doubt), would maybe not cripple the ready-to-use files, but it WOULD cripple the internet and in extension the way that people reproduce what they see on the internet.

anonymous: what are you talking about? Do you really think I would have bought copyrighted software for about £100,000, only if it had good enough copyright protection? Or the 60+ Xbox games I have downloaded, how many of them do you think I would have afford to buy?
I have bought certain movies, games and especially lots of music, but it has almost always been BECAUSE of file sharing (started out with p2p in 1998 when I was about 10 or 11).

2:34 AM  
Anonymous said...

To the user who claims you can't watermark audio, this is rubbish. sells digitally watermarked audio for legal use.

It was my understanding that using compression to try and remove the watermark would not work without significantly affecting the original audio stream.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous said...

I saw a lot of good ideas and new ideas. To bad that the good ones aren't new and new ones aren't good. Keep blogging man. We need bloggers like you! You make us avoid stupidity.

9:52 AM  
yaodownload2006 said...

as i know Super DVD to PSP Converter directly converts DVD movies to your PSP.

All you need do is to connect PSP to your PC and start Super DVD to PSP Converter. When the conversion is completed, you may watch movies on your PSP

6:59 AM  

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