Digimark creates "active" watermark

Written by Brett Thomas

March 1, 2007 | 10:46

Tags: #drm #watermark

Companies: #adobe

Ars Technica has proposed an interesting theory - what if content flowed freely with no DRM, but you were automatically billed for each use? Though such a world may be a bit far-fetched, the automatic content system isn't. Digimark has recently patented an active scanning technology to detect watermarks.

For those unfamiliar with the technology, a watermark is an embedded (often invisible) bit of code or imagery that either authenticates or shows ownership of a particular piece of content. Digimark is one of the two leading companies in the field, and is incredibly popular with photographers. Macrovision is the other company, and is very popular when watermarking movies or video.

The new system will troll through the depths of the internet, looking for images that are marked with a particular watermark. The service makes note of the location and sends a notice to the content's copyright holder that his or her content is up on display. The owner may then approve the use of it or get in touch with the person who has infringed on the copyright.

This "active" system is far from a new concept, but it took until the YouTube and MySpace copyright debacles before the US Patent and Trademark Office would approve it. Digimark says that its goal is not to prevent the content from being displayed, but instead compensate the owner with ad revenue for each viewing instance. Such a model could eventually allow the completely free flow of copyrighted content, just that viewers would pay for that privelage by the content sharing real estate with advertisements.

Bruce Davis, the CEO of Digimark, had this to say:
"Much of the repurposed content on YouTube, for example, contains copyrighted entertainment. If social networking sites implemented software to check each stream, they could identify copyrighted subject matter, create a report, negotiate compensation for the value chain and sell targeted advertising for related goods and services. There is no need to impede consumers. In fact, the specific identification of the content could guide provision of related goods, services and community designed to maximize the consumer’s enjoyment of the entertainment experience."

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