Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Robust watermarking offers hope against digital piracy

08.12.2008
Watermarks have been used for centuries to prove the authenticity of bank notes, postage stamps and documents. Now European researchers are considering them as a new tool in the fight against digital piracy and to authenticate and verify the integrity of digital media.

With millions of illegally copied songs and videos winging their way across file-sharing networks, artists and producers have been sent scrambling for ways to protect their content. Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems that prevent copying have raised fair use issues, however, because they not only block pirates but also prevent legitimate consumers from making back-up copies. Watermarking, in contrast, does not prevent copying, but depending on the application, can let consumers and producers know what content is authentic and what is fake, and can help authorities trace illegal copies.

“I foresee watermarking playing a very important role in protecting digital rights, a growing industry because of piracy,” says Bart Preneel, a professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. Other uses, he notes, include authenticating information and ensuring data integrity, as well as making content easier to identify and find.

Preneel coordinated the EU-funded ECRYPT project, which set up a network of researchers across Europe to deepen research into cryptography, and, through one so-called ‘virtual lab’ called WAVILA, to study methods and applications for digital watermarking and perceptual hashing.

Though not a new concept, digital watermarking is starting to gain favour among content producers as one of several emerging anti-piracy measures. Earlier this year, for example, record companies Sony and Universal started embedding anonymous watermarks into songs not protected by other DRM methods. That will allow them to trace the origins of illegally copied material, potentially generating important empirical evidence on the scale of the piracy problem as they seek tighter copyright protection laws.

What the record companies are doing is one application of imperceptible and robust watermarks, which are hidden to the user and are not eliminated if the content is tampered with, such as being compressed or reformatted in the case of a song, video or photograph. Such watermarks are difficult, though not impossible to remove, and the WAVILA researchers wanted to gain a better understanding of how someone would go about trying to crack the watermarking algorithms.

Break our watermarking systems

“We organised competitions in which we invited researchers from around the world to try to remove watermarks from pictures without damaging the images,” explains Christian Kraetzer, the assistant coordinator of the WAVILA virtual lab at Magdeburg University in Germany. “The competitions were not intended to prove how well a specific watermarking technique performs. Instead, they gave us a better understanding of the impact of disparate attacks, some of them unknown before the contest.”

Combined with the WAVILA team’s theoretical breakthroughs in the watermarking domain, such information will all but certainly prove invaluable to researchers looking to develop new ways to protect digital content.

“As with cryptography in general, you create an algorithm, have others test it, and when it gets cracked you improve it or start fresh,” Kraetzer says.

Perceptual hashing, an offshoot of the digital watermarking field, was another potential DRM application studied by the WAVILA researchers. Also known as digital fingerprinting, perceptual hashing uses software to identify, extract and compress characteristic components of a video, song or picture to create a unique and easily identifiable fingerprint. Not only does that allow digital content to be compared and verified relatively quickly and easily, but it creates new methods for searching digital content.

“By using a snippet of a video with a perceptual hash you could search a database to retrieve the full movie,” Kraetzer notes. “By broadening the search parameters it could also be used to find similar videos.”

Preneel suggests that movie producers and record companies could use it to find copyrighted content on the web. They could, for example, use digital fingerprinting to identify snippets of videos on video sharing websites, such as YouTube, or to find copyrighted songs that have been used to compile so-called mash-up music tracks.

With companies dedicating increasing amounts of time and money to fighting digital piracy, technologies, such as digital watermarking and perceptual hashing, will all but certainly find their way into new commercial applications over the coming years. However, because of the fear among companies that disclosing applications publicly makes them easier to crack, it will be hard to know where and how they are being used.

“Watermarking today is where cryptography was in the 1960s and 1970s, there is still a lot of secrecy. And in some ways it is facing an even more complex challenge,” Preneel notes.

The ECRYPT project received funding under the ICT strand of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research. This is part two of a two-part series on ECRYPT.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/90264

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Smart Computers
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht AI implications: Engineer's model lays groundwork for machine-learning device
18.08.2017 | Washington University in St. Louis

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>