New audio "watermark" copy protection scheme for cinemas in the works

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Paul Miller
November 3rd, 2005
In this article: hdtv
New audio "watermark" copy protection scheme for cinemas in the works image
New audio "watermark" copy protection scheme for cinemas in the works image
MPAA hijack notice

For various reasons, everyone likes to talk about the "analog hole" problem with DRM protection: pretty much all security falls down in the face of a well positioned camera and mic setup in the back of a movie theater. Well not for long… the movie industry just unveiled a system at their DVD Forum in Paris last week that would embed an audio "watermark" during the soundtrack mixing process by slightly varying the waveforms at regular intervals. (Screwing around with the noise.) They claim the change shouldn't be audible to paying cinema goers, but would be easily picked up by a decoder embedded in forthcoming HD playback systems, starting with Toshiba's HD-DVD players next year. This soundtrack mojo will only be applied to the cinema release of a film, so if a player recognizes the pattern, it will know it's not playing a legit copy, and shut down on the double. It does seem like any audio changes would have to be rather obvious to make it through the quality loss you'll get with this type of piracy, and we can just imagine the legions of audiophiles who will pick up on the patterns and run from the theater screaming and clutching their golden ears. We also have to wonder what those MPAAers think the next step is. A large red "X" across the screen? Maybe they could throw in some dancing elves and a strobe-like flashing effect? That would surely curb piracy. No, wait, don't please — we were only kidding!

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