Digimarc Corp. Announces New Copyright Protection Technology
Irremovable Signatures Protect Creative Property in the Digital Age
Portland, Oregon, June 27, 1995 Digimarc Corporation today announced an innovative new technology for embedding information such as electronic signatures or serial numbers directly within photographs, video, audio, and other creative property. Digimarc signatures can be used for a wide variety of applications, including verifying copyright ownership, detecting alterations, triggering digital-cash meters, or tracking black-market distribution. These capabilities will be crucial in allowing intellectual property transactions over the Information Superhighway, including today s Internet.
Intellectual property protection in a digital world
People who create images or music and the companies who fund them know that recent advances in digital technologies make it much easier for theft of work to occur. Whether they design images, take photographs, produce records, or direct movies, they know their work can be illegally copied or transformed, easily and with perfect fidelity. Until now, proving copyright violation required an error- prone, subjective comparison. But, with Digimarc-based products, creators can just sign their work and be assured that they are legally protected, just as artists have always applied their personal signature to creative works.
The expansion of digital systems is a two-edged sword for the creator of copyrighted works: while it may enable theft, it also enables broader legitimate use. The phenomenal growth in multimedia computers and communications technologies has created an enormous wave of demand for still images, video, and audio. This increasing demand means great opportunities for content providers, but cost-effective content licensing systems are not yet available. Since Digimarc signatures remain intact through different formats, they are expected to become an important part of electronic metering systems that allow incremental payments for incremental use.
Wide range of applications
Beyond simple proof of ownership, the signatures can contain other digital information such as license rights, creation data, or its distribution path. Depending on how widely available the creators of intellectual property wish to make this information, they may choose a private, unique code pattern or an industry-standard code pattern.
Digimarc applications that use a confidential code include:
Proof of ownership: Since the copyright information is irremovably embedded in the image, unauthorized use can be objectively proven.
Alteration detection: The Digimarc signature is distributed throughout the image, so that subsequent modifications can be identified, such as in photo-ID cards.
Serial number tracking: Marking each released copy with a different code allows tracking origination points. With publicly standardized Digimarc code patterns, different applications are possible:
Notification of ownership: To enable legitimate collection of royalties and use of the image, the necessary contact information can be embedded within the image.
Copy prevention or metering: Digimarc technology built into copying devices (such as set-top boxes, Digital Video Disks/CD-ROM recorders, or photocopiers) can prevent copies from being made until appropriate compensation has been credited.
Other public information: The creator can include information such as captions or camera data within a photo itself that will not be inadvertently separated and lost.
Digimarc technology works by combining the information to be embedded with a random code pattern. This combined signature is then added to the digitized image (or other creative property) at a very low signal level. The result is an invisibly signed image. As the signature is melded with the image itself, it survives conversions from digital to analog and back.
Although undetectable to the human eye and ear, Digimarc signatures can be found by a simple computer analysis using the creator s unique code pattern. Without this code, the signatures are impossible to detect or remove. The signatures are holographic, meaning that the entire signature is contained in a small section of an image, or in a tiny clip of music. The signatures are robust, so they can survive multiple generations of copying, transforming, printing, scanning, or compression. Before the signatures become unreadable, the commercial viability of the creative property must be seriously compromised, removing the incentive to appropriate another s work.
While other technologies designed to protect copyright owners have important uses, Digimarc signatures can identify ownership and other information about an image or other intellectual property without completely locking out access (such as encryption does), being separated from the image (as file headers can be) or damaging the image (as watermarking, thumbnails, or reduced resolution versions do). The signatures ability to stay within the image even when printed or compressed makes Digimarc technology vastly superior to simplistic techniques used in the past (such as hiding data in the least significant bit).
Geoffrey Rhoads, the founder of Digimarc, invented the Digimarc technology in 1993 while working to improve the quality of photographs in earth-based telescopes by removing atmospheric effects from the pictures. When faced with the need to protect the commercial value of these photographs, I found no method available to prove ownership, and set out to develop one. The resulting Digimarc technology will make it possible for creators of intellectual property in audio, video, photography, movies, graphics design, and multimedia to embed important information in their works.
Digimarc Corporation was founded in 1995 to bring this exciting new technology to the difficult task of copyright protection. The company is a closely-held organization with corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon. As the Digimarc technology has implications across many market segments, the company has made a series of both US and international patent filings, covering the technology and its applications.
Digimarc Corporation is a technology licensing company that will commercialize the technology through ongoing partnerships with the leading suppliers to these markets. The company is in the process of establishing these relationships, and Digimarc expects to announce joint partnerships and specific products over the next few months. More information about Digimarc technology is available by phone (+1-503-626-8811), fax (+1-503-626-8844)