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Watermarking to Replace DRM? 365

An anonymous reader writes "News.com has an article on the announcement of Microsoft and Universal to introduce watermarking technology into audio files. The technology could serve several purposes including tracking file sharing statistics and inserting advertisements into audio tracks. The article goes on to suggest that watermarking could possibly replace DRM in the near future."
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Watermarking to Replace DRM?

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  • Won't help (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saibot834 ( 1061528 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:28AM (#20259031)
    People will find ways to remove those watermarks. The only impact will be on the people who still buy the stuff; those who share it online won't have any problems.
    • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:33AM (#20259065)
      Exactly. They've been trying to watermark audio media for as long as I can remember. Either it doesn't affect the audio, in which case whatever reads the audio can re-write it without the watermark, or it does affect audio, in which case, well, it affects audio.
      • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ion++ ( 134665 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:45AM (#20259545)
        i think the hole point of watermarking is that you can not detect it, meaning you can not remove it by rewritting it. And neither by converting to analog and recording it again.

        Should you succed in detecting one watermark, who says that they have not many watermarks in the sound? Can you prove that you have removed ALL watermarks from a file?

        A sound file might be small enough for just having a few watermarks, but a movie should be big enough for each file to have several watermarks in it. Happy sharing.
        • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Interesting)

          by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:25AM (#20259951) Homepage Journal
          Hmmmm what if pirates get multiple copies of an mp3? they examine the differences between the files, minimally alter all the places where the differences occur (i.e. making the average of the sound when in phase), or even worse make an audio collage of the song from watermarked mp3s stolen from unprotected computers so it includes marks from multiple owners.
          • Re:Won't help (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ion++ ( 134665 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:38AM (#20260127)
            there might be other reasons for why the files differs.

            Suppose that you have multiple watermarks, some are identical from files to files, some specify the server they comes from, others the buyer, and some the music company?

            And finally, not being a watermark expert... there might exist water mark technology that can survive such behaviour.

            Still, if it was you who bought the file, i would very much dare you to prove that even after you did what you describe that after that, there are NO watermarks left.
          • A better idea... (Score:5, Informative)

            by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:45AM (#20260239) Homepage Journal

            I posted a comment at news.com with basically the same idea.

            If the bits and bytes can be adjusted in an undetectable manner to put a watermark on, say, an audio or video file, why can't someone just come along after and adjust the bits and bytes again in some random manner to effectively erase the watermark? I mean, if they can't read the bits and bytes that they put on the media because they've been altered, they wouldn't be able to track it, and the watermark would pretty effectively be broken.

            It just seems to me that although having a bit-for-bit identical copy of the original would be nice, they've already altered it so that we can't get that. Altering it a bit more (no pun intended) wouldn't really be harmful, and it would still meet the end goal of distributing the media untraceably.

            But you're right, another option would be to have two (three? four?) accounts get multiple copies of the same file and do a bit-by-bit comparison, either averaging the differences or picking from one of the two copies at random. If you have multiple copies, you might even be able to derive a highly probable copy of the original.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Skapare ( 16644 )

              It is possible to make a watermark that is a sequence of encrypted bits that are sufficiently scrambled and modulated over multiple orthogonal frequencies as to appear to be nothing more than very slight background hiss. Redundancy from multiple copies of the watermark would still allow extracting it even if other noise is added. You'd have to know how to decode the watermark, or at least demodulate it if the frequency set is not cryptographically selected, to remove it. If you merged two songs, you very

          • Re:Won't help (Score:4, Insightful)

            by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday August 17, 2007 @12:24PM (#20262747) Homepage

            What if pirates get ahold of multiple MP3s? Why bother? Pirates can hijack the ships that carry CDs across the sea and rip the CDs themselves, making MP3s that don't contain watermarks.

            Yeah, there's a joke in there, but I have a serious point. It's likely that someone with a lot of technical knowledge will be able to remove watermarks, it's also true that a person with a lot of technical knowledge will be able to bypass DRM. Someone who's serious about distributing copyrighted material will be able to find a loophole somewhere, and the only realistic purpose of a DRM scheme or watermarking scheme is to discourage casual sharing.

            Even though people will find a way to remove this watermarking, most people won't bother to figure out how to do it. It might succeed at discouraging casual file sharing without impeding customers from using the content they've purchased.

        • by mgblst ( 80109 )
          Unless it is somebody reading out the name of the person who bought the music in the middle of the song, that is really difficult to do. More likely they are going to use a digital watermark, that is easy to remove. The fact that it is easy to remove will only affect the few of us who know what to do, meanwhile the majority of people will get busted.
          • by ion++ ( 134665 )
            please prove that all watermarks are easy to remove and that you have removed them all before posting any files with watermarks that you have bought.
        • Converting to analog and recording again will only retain the watermark if the watermark was audible -- at least if you filter to retain just the audible frequencies (and there's actually no need to go via analog, you can get the same effect digitally). Of course, that's not an issue if folks accept inferior sound quality, and the indications are that a lot of folk will.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ion++ ( 134665 )
            to my knowledge watermarks in sounds files works by making some places of the sound slightly different such that the ear/brain will not think that sounds wrong, but also such that a reencoding will not trash the watermark.

            I believe that the music industry are capable of spending a lot of money on developing a sufficient good watermark technology, also one that will survive multiple reencoding attempts.

            Also, suppose that they give each buyer a sufficiently unique number, and then they put this number into al
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SuperDre ( 982372 )
      It will be difficult to remove watermarks without destroying the original content.. watermarks are very advanced these days...
      • by dattaway ( 3088 )
        It will be difficult to remove watermarks without destroying the original content.. watermarks are very advanced these days...

        Its VERY easy to remove watermarks, no matter how sophisticated. Don't believe me? Take two or more originals, uncompress the format, compare the difference, null the offending part, and re-encode.

        This cat-mouse game will continue until the end of time.
        • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dc29A ( 636871 ) * on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:35AM (#20259461)

          It will be difficult to remove watermarks without destroying the original content.. watermarks are very advanced these days...

          Its VERY easy to remove watermarks, no matter how sophisticated. Don't believe me? Take two or more originals, uncompress the format, compare the difference, null the offending part, and re-encode.

          This cat-mouse game will continue until the end of time.
          I don't think it's that easy. Mp3 is already lossy, once decompressed and re-encoded to compare with a watermarked version, it will lose quality and the binary information will be different so comparing won't be easy at all.

          Even if you have the original CD, and you rip the track from it, encode it into the exact Mp3 format (same bitrate and all) as the watermarked one, what guarantees that iTunes used the same disc to encode it? What guarantees that iTunes rip the same exact way as you? Nothing, so the Mp3 file will be different even if encoded with same parameters.
    • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nyctopterus ( 717502 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:33AM (#20259073) Homepage
      ... and the impact on those that buy the stuff? Pretty minimal I'd say, if they aren't planning to share it. Watermarking is so much better than DRM.
      • Re:Won't help (Score:4, Insightful)

        by larien ( 5608 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:12AM (#20259311) Homepage Journal
        I agree. The main reason I don't buy MP3s from iTunes or whatever is that I play them in more than just my iPod, sometimes xmms, winamp or my Squeezebox, none of which support DRM. I'd live with a watermark that basically says "if you share this, we know who you are and where you live", because I don't plan to share it.

        Obviously, the information watermarked needs to be limited to an identifier rather than encoding the name in for privacy, but if they know that the MP3 with the watermark 19584202984512903 was sold to me, they can track it back if they find it on P2P without exposing my personal information.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JimDaGeek ( 983925 )
          I don't see how this helps much from a legal perspective. Say you have 1 GB of watermarked MP3 files on your portable audio player. It gets lost/stolen. Someone uploads most of those audio songs that you legally paid for. What happens now? You get sued, pay big fines, have a criminal case brought against you and possibly do jail time?

          I don't see a jury convicting a peer because their player was lost/stolen. Heck, anyone could just say their player was lost/stolen, the perfect defense next to the Ch [wikipedia.org]
      • by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:12AM (#20259313)
        If you use the watermark to trigger a banner ad on a player, it could convince the RIAA that there is an ad-revenue stream and cause them to drop the DRM and lawsuits.

        Unfortunately it will be used to connect specific downloads to individuals allowing the RIAA to target their lawsuits more accurately. It will still be as impossible to prove in court but will drive an even deeper wedge between the RIAA and reality.

        The only way the RIAA will stop suing is when someone wins a countersuit big enough to affect the bottom line of the corporations supporting them.
        • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:35AM (#20260075) Homepage Journal

          Unfortunately it will be used to connect specific downloads to individuals allowing the RIAA to target their lawsuits more accurately. It will still be as impossible to prove in court but will drive an even deeper wedge between the RIAA and reality.


          Quite correct. If you buy Hillary Duff's latest single today, and are sick of it in two weeks, and decide to sell that MP3 to someone who isn't yet sick to death of hearing about her crap, and then that buyer uploads it to all the P2P networks (I'm still trying to figure out who the hell is buying her crap in the first place but bear with me) the RIAA would go after you. They'd insist that in addition to not having Fair Use, you do not have the Right of First Sale. It SHOULD be simple to squelch their argument but unfortunately they have deep pockets with which to buy the courts.

          But: that is where watermarking can be harmful. If you buy an MP3 and resell it legally (destroying all copies you have) you're LEGALLY in the clear, or if you purchase it as a gift (and again, destroying all copies you have) the "evidence" would point back at you, but the evidence really isn't proof of ANYTHING in this case. It's like a crime having happened in a subway with no witnesses, and you get charged because your fingerprints happen to be on one of the handrails. That fingerprint is simply evidence that you were there sometime in the past, not that you had anything to do with the incident.
      • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:09AM (#20259769) Homepage
        Absolutely. The people ripping and uploading are doing it with pre-release CDs, not with their latest iTunes that they burned and ripped. I'll buy music if I can play it wherever I like, and watermarking doesn't stop me from doing that. It conceptually deters piracy since your name is attached, but doesn't lock things down to prevent it and stop people from legitimately using their purchases. Everyone has a valid reason to worry about DRM; only people who are doing things that (theoretically) harm profits by uploading might worry about the watermarking.
      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
        I don't mind watermarking a bit as long as it doesn't effect audio quality and there is ABSOLUTELY no DRM on it (so I can play it on ANY player, make as many copies as I want for *MY* listening, and keep it forever without having it "switch off" at some point because the company that DRM'ed it went out of business).
    • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Insightful)

      by baadger ( 764884 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:38AM (#20259103)
      This is true, the only way to make a watermark that can't be removed easily from video for example is to imprint a visible watermark directly onto your video frames, anything subtle such as using Steganography [wikipedia.org] probably isn't going to make it through a re-encode due to the lossy nature. The same I would imagine will apply to audio.
      • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Insightful)

        by daeg ( 828071 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:47AM (#20259147)
        Actually, some forms of water marking can survive some reprocessing. However, I am not aware of any watermarking techniques that can survive multiple passes. Even more dangerous yet to watermarking is combining two or more files. For instance, if your friend bought the same track as you did, new software could digitally combine the two files, filtering out any differences. Some bits would probably remain from the watermark, for example, if time 0:01 through 0:02 had the recording artist's name embedded, it would be identical between both tracks. The software could even take a more aggressive approach and simply drop frames or drop partial seconds of audio to remove suspicious data altogether.

        Watermarking isn't good in my view, even compared to DRM. There will still be legal restrictions on what you can do. You won't be legally allowed to do ANYTHING to the file except play it. You could even be legally responsible if a virus happened to alter the file.

        This won't affect pirates. It won't affect file sharers. It only hurts the consumer and hurts everyone in the long run.
        • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Interesting)

          by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:51AM (#20259173) Homepage
          And there's certainly no watermarking that isn't noticeable that can't deliberately be removed.

          I assume "They" want to catch the sophisticated pirates distributing tons of material, not the unsophisticated share-1-song with a friend people. Oh wait... that would make sense in a sane world.
        • Also, watermarking pretends that people have control over their files. Millions of people whose computers that are controlled remotely in botnets don't [itnews.com.au].

          There are numerous other ways files are moved around. If you take your computer in for repair, it is possible [blogtoplist.com] the repair person will copy any files he or she wants.
        • Re:Won't help (Score:5, Interesting)

          by encoderer ( 1060616 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:40AM (#20259505)
          "You could even be legally responsible if a virus happened to alter the file"

          I love the smell of FUD in the morning...

          Seriously. Watermarks are progress. You disagree, that's fine, but lets debate it on its merits and not base our opinions on fear-mongering and FUD.
        • by DFJA ( 680282 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:40AM (#20259511)
          I don't whether this has ever been tried with audio files, but the techniques used in CDMA radio communications might work here. Essentially, you would need to add a small amount of noise to the audio signal, however it's not true random noise and can be decoded to reveal a signature, or watermark. If you combine two files with different 'noise' signatures, then both signatures can still be extracted with a high probability of a correct result. Only as you combine a large number of similar files does the probability of correctly decoding the signatures of the components decrease. However by that time, you've added a large amount of noise to the audio file and it will probably sound bad anyway, so no-one will want to download it.

          The downside is that by definition the noise you add has to be audible. Note that for a long time audio cassettes sold very well despite their awful noise characteristics, so this may be acceptable to all but the strictest of audiophiles.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kimvette ( 919543 )

          Watermarking isn't good in my view, even compared to DRM. There will still be legal restrictions on what you can do. You won't be legally allowed to do ANYTHING to the file except play it. You could even be legally responsible if a virus happened to alter the file.

          Legal uses include fair use and right of first sale. You still have the right to sell it to someone else when you are done with it and no longer wish to possess it, and you have the right to give it away. In both cases you must destroy all copies.

    • Re:Won't help (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:52AM (#20259181)
      But doesn't that pretty much give everyone what he wants?

      DRM has also never been a tool to eliminate filesharing. I guess in the meantime even the RIAA has understood that. It's a tool to reduce it. Just like copy protection on software is. If someone wants to crack it, he will. But Joe Average won't.

      I think watermarks would give everyone what they want. You can actually buy content without fearing that it won't work in your application. The RIAA gets the limitation of sharing because the watermarked stuff could be traced. And well, if you can remove DRM you can remove watermarks.

      It's actually win-win all over.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lloyd_Bryant ( 73136 )

        I think watermarks would give everyone what they want. You can actually buy content without fearing that it won't work in your application. The RIAA gets the limitation of sharing because the watermarked stuff could be traced. And well, if you can remove DRM you can remove watermarks.

        You forgot about the practical joke possibilities. Such as borrow the mp3 player of a coworker/boss/ex-girlfriend, copy the watermarked tunes out, post them on a P2P network, then sit back and watch a squadron of RIAA attack lawyers ruin his/her life...

        The *only* ones who benefit from watermarking are the content distributors - it gives them traceability so they know who to sue. It *does* give the consumer a less restricted product, but at the cost of making said consumer liable if the "wrong person" eve

    • Congratulations, record companies, for coming up with yet another reason not to buy your products. To a consumer that is toying with the idea of buying a song rather than downloading it for free, watermarking could potentially be an even larger disincentive than DRM.

      • DRM: If you buy this song, you run the risk that you won't be able to play it on the hardware that you have now or will have in the future. Total risk exposure: 99 cent
      • Watermarking: If you buy this song, you run the risk that it somehow ends up on the filesharing networks with your name written all over it, and you get sued to smithereens by the RIAA. Total risk exposure: a gazillion dollars
      Why would consumers find this so much more attractive?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And how, exactly, can you prove to a judge that John Smith actually distributed that file which reads "John Smith"?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          "And how, exactly, can you prove to a judge that John Smith actually distributed that file which reads 'John Smith'?"

          In the US legal system, the burden of proof tends to fall on the person who doesn't a multimillion-dollar legal department at his disposal.

          Besides, the RIAA prefers extortion to legal action. They just have to send you a letter stating one of your music files ended up on a filesharing network, and you can pony up a few grand or face the consequences. Heck, they don't even have to be telling t
      • by Ed Avis ( 5917 )

        If you buy this song, you run the risk that it somehow ends up on the filesharing networks with your name written all over it
        'Somehow'? How, exactly? By you uploading it to a filesharing network, perhaps? There is no other way (and no, there do not exist Russian botnet gangs trying to compromise your machine in order to copy your Britney MP3s).
        • by jfb3 ( 25523 )
          But the Geek Squad does exist and there is proof that they do steal music from their customers and share it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dupont54 ( 857462 )
          • MP3 players or burned CDs getting lost or stolen,
          • Wi-Fi network hacked,
          • tracks purchased with a stolen credit card number,
          • files discretly copied by your son's friend on a usb thumb drive or getting picked up by a technician supposed to fix your computer,
          • indelicate family member to whom you have lended a track,
          • trojan and other malware, etc.

          Examples are numerous of how digital files can leak away from you. You would need to be paranoid and skillfull to properly secure music files which would become very

        • by Pofy ( 471469 )
          >'Somehow'? How, exactly? By you uploading it to
          >a filesharing network, perhaps? There is no other way

          Of course there are other ways. They might vary some depending on what country in question the person happens to be in (including travelling to/through). Many countries allows for various legal cases of when copying is perfectly legal. Similary, many countries allows for a change of ownership of a copy (for example thorugh gift, loan, purchase and so on). Just two examples.
      • You do understand that 'normally' watermarking with other technologies, they go after the person name 'Joe Smoo' that has files on his computer with OTHER people's names watermarked in the file? As the original owner can ALWAYS claim to be ignorant how the other person 'stole' their downloaded song.

        This is a way to ACTUALLY go after the abusers of file sharing, not the consumers or the original downloaders.

        BTW Digital watermarking has been in photos and video for a LONG LONG time now, you can open up most p
      • by Belacgod ( 1103921 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:42AM (#20259531)
        RTFA. The watermark doesn't identify the name of the downloader, just which CD the song was ripped from. They sample from the P2P stream and see which of their CDs are getting pirated the most.

        It's drafting us for market research, not preparations for lawsuits.

      • Perhaps it's not about "buying". Perhaps it's about "giving it away and seeing how it becomes popular." With tracking information from the watermarks, the labels will have some better understanding of how & when a song becomes a "hit", making it easier for them to market future artists.

        Microsoft may try to pitch this as not "control", but "make money from free music". RIAA companies need to find a new way to market and distribute their money for profit, and they need it fast. What better way to do t

      • by gsslay ( 807818 )

        If you buy this song, you run the risk that it somehow ends up on the filesharing networks with your name written all over it, and you get sued to smithereens by the RIAA. Total risk exposure: a gazillion dollars

        That's right. In exactly the same way you'd get sued if your car is stolen and ends up involved in a bank robbery. I guess you should avoid placing your name on any of your property. No knowing where it might end up, doing what, and you'd automatically be liable!!

        In what way is this input 'insightful'?

      • by db32 ( 862117 )
        Hush you! How else are they going to get consumers to eat the poison pill? "See, we listened to you, we are getting rid of DRM, we just wanna put a little stamp on it that you won't even notice"
    • The only impact will be on the people who still buy the stuff; those who share it online won't have any problems.

      Impact? The only thing most consumers will care about is that they CAN rip the tracks to their PC, share them with their friends, load them onto network and USB devices, etc. The need to by pass the watermarking will now be pretty much relegated to the piracy groups.

      Even if this doesn't prevent the piracy groups from doing their thing, at least it won't interfere with consumers fair use rights the way DRM does. There will be a few consumers who complain about damaged audio quality due to the watermark, but

    • Are you really sure it will not help?

      Please prove that a bought .ogg you are about to share with an internet friend does NOT have watermarking in it.
    • There won't be any impact on the people who buy the stuff. Because they will be able to use the file in any way they wish on any equipment. It will only effect people who want to illegally share the files they just purchases. This is an ideal system for me except for the obvious fact that it will be eventually be easy to remove the watermark. If there is a good system for transfer or watermark registration (also probably impossible) it will be an advantage to the moral consumer because it will provide a
    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      People will find ways to remove those watermarks. The only impact will be on the people who still buy the stuff; those who share it online won't have any problems.

      Watermarks can be invisible or imperceivable so they will have no impact on people who buy the stuff - unless they share them around. In normal use they would have no effect on listening / viewing. What a company would do if they caught you filesharing is an interesting question, but assuming you were law abiding you would be just fine. This is

    • by cfulmer ( 3166 )
      They'll find ways to remove it, but the large majority of people won't actually remove it unless the watermarks start to get annoying. Copying music is a "crime" of convenience -- it's so easy that many people don't even think twice about it. For most people, going through the trouble of stripping the watermarks isn't going to be worth the effort.

      By analogy, when college students copy other people's work on papers or other assignments (another "crime" of convenience), they nearly always copy verbatim, may
  • This certainly sounds like a preferable solution to any kind of Draconian DRM scheme, but my bet is that it'll be circumvented so trivially that content providers will soon shun it and go back to the bad old days of DRM. I hope I'm just being cynical though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Hagnor ( 978816 )
      Yes, it is even more trivial than you think : simply re-encoding the whole song (from mp3 to aac for example) will remove the carefully placed watermark.
      It's the same as with invisible watermarks in pictures. Just save the image (normally a jpg) again, with recompressing, and the watermark will be mostly gone.

      You can argue that re-encoding songs like this diminishes quality, which is true, but it is so little that it's not audible. A minor, inaudible quality loss is a small price to pay for DRM/Watermark fr
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Hanners1979 ( 959741 )
        TFA seems to suggest that re-encoding the file won't remove the watermark, but I don't see how they can guarantee that if it's part of the audio data. At the very least, I would imagine the re-encoding process would 'damage' the watermark to some extent.
      • by DaveCar ( 189300 )

        But it's a hassle and most people aren't going to do that - they probably won't even realise that it is there in the first place.

        Music companies seem to be smelling the coffee. DRM would never work because you only need one clever person to circumvent it and then it will turn up on P2P for everyone to see. Conversely, with watermarking you only need one stupid person to put their unstripped content on P2P and you have found the culprit.
      • by shish ( 588640 )

        A minor, inaudible quality loss is a small price to pay for DRM/Watermark free songs.
        What's the benefit of a watermark-free song?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      DRM obviously doesn't work, is expensive, and loses customers.

      Even if this doesn't prevent piracy (which it's not designed to do, if you RTFA) it doesn't piss off customers and probably isn't very expensive at all, since the file format doesn't change, doesn't require special software or codecs on the users' end, and is generally painless to everyone.

      The article talks about this only being used to track where a file came from originally, and not watermarking them individually. Personally, I think it would
    • by DaveCar ( 189300 )

      It may be trivial to remove, but the average consumer will be too lazy/inept to remove it.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:09AM (#20259285)
      Actually it would be interesting what loses you more sales: Crippling your songs in a way that a good deal of your customers will cease to do business with you because they either simply cannot use your content at all because your DRMified version of the song does not play in their player, or the "weak" watermarks that allow easy transcoding to remove it.

      Personally, I'd say the first. If someone's a "heavy P2P user", he doesn't care about either. Someone WILL have removed that DRM or watermark for him. No matter how tough, no matter how good, DRM has always been broken and will always be broken.

      So what's left? The market for the Joe Average users who do not know how to circumvent DRM or watermarks, and who do not know about P2P. And those people will buy, as long as it works in their players.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:32AM (#20259057) Homepage Journal
    Firstly, there is nothing wrong with Watermarking and steganography.
    its just a way of hiding information.
    reading up on it says nothing bad.
    Situations may arise when it will be used incorrectly.
    To be certain though we should filter out the bad stuff.

    Perhaps a better way would be doing nothing.
    or maybe we can filter them out
    Suppose we find multiple files and merge them.
    That would work wouldn't it?
  • Same as with DRM (Score:4, Informative)

    by JosefAssad ( 1138611 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:33AM (#20259063) Homepage
    Instead, the data is inserted into the audio track itself. It's inaudible to human ears, but detectible by various other tools.

    Which is precisely why it won't work. What one tool can detect, another can circumvent.

    Oh, and it's detectable and not detectible. Don't know what moron at news.com.com hired Taco...

    This message is brought to you by the Bureau of Massively Distributed Peer Review, Department of Free Culture.

  • by PsychoSlashDot ( 207849 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:34AM (#20259077)
    Maybe I'm the only one, but I've reached a saturation point regarding advertising. It now makes me react strongly negatively. I fully expect any day now companies will start tattooing adverts on the inside of babies' eyelids.

    We live in a world of massive information-availability. A consumer who wishes to consume is equipped to find the "best" product for the job, and often will. Brand-recognition is a weakening force and it's high time we stop polluting our senses with invasive advertising.
    • me too. I buy a lot of audio online, mostly books, hundreds of pounds worth every few months (no television...). If I found that adverts were appearing in purchased goods I'd cancel that service the next moment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      Advertising saturation is one of the main reasons why I never had a TV at home since I left my parents home ten years ago. People say I'm too grumpy so maybe TV hasn't reach most people's limit yet, but they may have to be cautious, they are very close to it.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      We live in a world of massive information-availability. A consumer who wishes to consume is equipped to find the "best" product for the job, and often will. Brand-recognition is a weakening force and it's high time we stop polluting our senses with invasive advertising.

      You asume that "best" is something that is about quality of the product. It isn't. "Best" is often more then not about image. Having the "Best" sneakers and using the "Best" cellphone or even using the "Best" OS on their computer.

  • no problemo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:40AM (#20259109)
    All we have here is an attempt by microsoft to shuffle quietly away from the failed strategy that was drm.

    One teensy problem. Microsoft don't have the power to force other media file players to enact its scheme, and even if they could, no-one in their right mind is going to require that people re-encode their current collections to work with the new system. Hell mine is almost 150gb, most of that audiobooks, with individual files up to 30mb in size, I'm blowed if I'm going to redo it to use media player, which I don't use in any case, because its a bloated tool (not because its made by microsoft, just because its horrible to use). Audible and the apple store, where I shop, use their own protection systems, and both have 'rip th audio cd' in their options for anything I purchase.

    This scheme is ultimately unenforceable except for new purchases, and that from people who agree with microsoft. All it will give them is a way to quietly wrap drm in a blanket and heave it off a bridge late one night.
    • Heave it off a bridge? As if polluting our content isn't enough, now we're polluting our rivers with it too! I think that's not the watermark I'm looking for!
  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Friday August 17, 2007 @07:47AM (#20259149) Homepage
    The good news: Watermarking does not restrict the freedom of personal use and transferring from one device to another. If this could make online music shopping truly feasible I'd prefer it over DRM. I want to do whatever I like with the media I buy.

    But the question is how the media companies will use this newfound power... I support the idea of companies having the option to trace leaks, but this could make it possible to determine exactly who shared the 500 000 copies present of Band X's single Y on P2P network Z. Ensue more lawsuits?
  • Sounds better (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LinuxEagle ( 1123659 )
    DRM: Limited in who can run it. (see BBC iplayer for an example of an OS dependent implantation). Must have the right hardware, software, ect.
    Watermarks: Anyone can run it.
    Whether it can be hacked around or otherwise... time will tell, but from a accessibility standpoint, at least its looking like anybody can at least play it. That has to count for something. If I have to accept restrictions, this is better then what we had before.
    • This is a classic manipulation tactic. Your opponent wishes to impose an unpleasant restriction upon you. First, he imposes one that's excessive and offensive. You get upset. He, being the nice guy he is, offers a less-unpleasant restriction in "response" to your reaction. You fall all over yourself to choke down the restriction he originally wanted because it's "better than what we had before."

      I'm sure there's a formal name for this method, but it escapes me at the moment. I haven't had my coffee
  • to prevent piracy from being a problem. This has been said before, but since it's a decent idea it's worth repeating.

    Instead of the current market where any whore can get on stage, prance around singing other peoples songs (if they are in fact signing at all), then market a CD and demand millions of sales, why not allow the market to decide.

    1. Seed the market with your wares. Apply for a business loan from a studio, get a CD or two out there, do live performances, etc.
    2. Promote new album under the prem
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:14AM (#20259325) Homepage Journal

    The DMCA [wikipedia.org] makes it illegal (or legally difficult) to remove DRM. But any watermarking and advertising is fair game...

  • Not likely to work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:37AM (#20259479) Homepage Journal
    In my (completely non-expert) opinion, I can't see how watermarking can ever work as a way of tracing duplication of content because it can be very easily worked around

    Watermarking is designed to embed something into the audio that does not get noticed by the listener, but contains various information.

    At the same time, most audio codecs are designed to save space and one way they do this is to drop things from the stream that would not be heard by the listener anyway.

    So one would imagine that re-encoding, whilst perhaps sometimes unadvisable for various unrelated reasons, would do a fairly good job at removing or at least severely damaging a watermark.

    Any codec exports got a view on this?
  • > the announcement of Microsoft and Universal

    I don't understand Microsoft. Here's a company that wants to sell you an operating system, then spends the rest of its time collaborating with other companies that want to throw you into jail.
  • by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:39AM (#20259501)
    I see this as a positive step. DRM limits the devices and/or software you can use to play back the media you've purchased. It affects our fair use rights as consumers and therefore it needs to go. I think watermarking is a better solution for those of us who want to purchase our media in an unencumbered format to use in accordance with our fair use rights.

    The only potential problem I can see is what happens if a device that you've got your legally purchased media on is stolen and the person who steals it uploads some or all of that content? What happens if, say, you buy a new PC, copy all of your legally purchased media to the new PC, delete it from your old PC and either give the old PC away or sell it and the new owner runs an undelete program and recovers the media and then uploads it?

    I can see a lot of ways that watermarking could bite someone in the ass if they aren't careful with their files.

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:42AM (#20259527) Homepage Journal
    That you can track down the original owner who the files were stolen from?

    not saying that DRM is the answer either, but you cant run around blaming the people that leased the file in question for it being 'released'.
  • Watermarking *IS* DRM

    It's just a passive form, not an active one.
  • 1. Buy two copies of a song.
    2. Find the bits that are different.
    3. Randomize those bits.
    4. Post to LimeMuleKazDonkeyTorrent.
    5. Profit!
    • by figleaf ( 672550 )
      If you had a few seconds reading the article you would have known that the proposed watermark doesn't individualize each copy of the song.
  • First, replacing DRM with watermarks is a very nice step. It changes those companies position from support a future like Right to Read [gnu.org] to merely accusing people on baseless evidence. So, we can stop acting like they want to leat us to an Orwellian society, and just ask for a better judicial system.

    Now, watermarking also doesn't work. If it is audible, people won't like it. If it is not audible, it is useless information, what works against compressors and will be removed on every possibility. With time, al

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