AfterDawn: Tech news

Audio Watermarking may be new alternative to DRM

Written by Dave Horvath @ 15 Aug 2007 19:08 User comments (55)

Audio Watermarking may be new alternative to DRM Several record labels such as Sony Music and Universal Music have been courting with the idea brought about by a Seattle based company called Activated Content which places audio Watermarks on MP3 files. The purpose of these watermarks range from digital tracking of content, to marketing matrix that allow companies to get statistics on who has listened to their particular audio.
Audio watermarking works by placing an audio stream within the music itself that is not perceptible by the human ear, but can be read and deciphered by audio tracking software much easier than DRM standards. Since it becomes part of the audio, and not merely another layer within the audio, it becomes harder to strip it away, thereby leaving its mark to sit with the intended consumer. Should this same mark show up on another person's device, this could then give easier legal grounds for record companies to go after music pirates. The CEO of Activated Content states that it would take a user with a supercomputer and about a month's worth of time to be able to successfully Track down and remove an inserted watermark.

Earlier, Universal Music had declared that it was going to offer music without content protecting DRM on it. Universal is listed on Activated Content's website as a known partner. The CEO of Activated Content refused to comment on whether or not these DRM-free music offerings were going to have audio watermarks placed on them or not.

Additionally, although Activated Content has their own watermarking technology, it was announced that they have signed an agreement with Microsoft's research division, who is currently in charge of the development of DRM techniques and standards.

Source:
PCWorld

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55 user comments

115.8.2007 19:20

Being that MP3 is a lossy codec; couldn't one just re-encode the file to a lower bit rate? Would this effectively alter the sound enough so that it can not be tracked?

215.8.2007 19:24

Meh, doubt anyone would wanna download music at lower bit rate might as well buy your music =/

315.8.2007 19:24
diabolos
Inactive

SHhhhhhhh! :)

Ced

415.8.2007 19:41

Well, personally, I'd rather not have the audio I buy unnecessarily tampered with, even if that tampering "is not perceptible by the human ear". It goes against my perfectionist nature, just like buying lossy music in the first place. :-P

515.8.2007 21:09
WierdName
Inactive

Originally posted by nonoitall:
Well, personally, I'd rather not have the audio I buy unnecessarily tampered with, even if that tampering "is not perceptible by the human ear". It goes against my perfectionist nature, just like buying lossy music in the first place. :-P
So I assume all of your music has proper ID tags, are categorized, etc.

615.8.2007 21:17

This is "better" DRM. If it does not limit the amount of devices that can play the music etc. like current DRM then it maybe just what the companies really need, a DRM that does not limit you in what you can do with the file but if it is pirated then the pirates are caught.


Although I am anti-DRM in any form, if they really need a "consumer friendly" DRM something like this is the way to go.

Peace

715.8.2007 21:57

Originally posted by WierdName:
So I assume all of your music has proper ID tags, are categorized, etc.
Huh?
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 15 Aug 2007 @ 21:59

815.8.2007 22:00
WierdName
Inactive

Originally posted by nonoitall:
Huh?
I meant because you said you were a perfectionist.

EDIT- quote setup
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 15 Aug 2007 @ 22:01

915.8.2007 22:04

Quote:
Originally posted by nonoitall:
Huh?
I meant because you said you were a perfectionist.

EDIT- quote setup
Ah. No, I just like perfect (or at least as perfect as digital gets) audio - never said I was an organized perfectionist. ;-)

1015.8.2007 22:06

@WierdName

Cataloging a MP3 collection is a hell of a project, perfectionist or not. I've got around 2 TB of music, and I've set a standard for myself that everyhting must be listened to, renamed to fit a pre set standard, and then tagged before it goes into my archives. I realalistically understand that I probably will never finish this project.

1115.8.2007 22:07
WierdName
Inactive

Originally posted by nonoitall:
Ah. No, I just like perfect (or at least as perfect as digital gets) audio - never said I was an organized perfectionist. ;-)
Lol, I do too. As for the organization, it only goes as far as a couple folders scattered across a couple drives/partitions and filenames of artist-songtitle.mp3/wma/etc

EDIT- grammer
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 15 Aug 2007 @ 22:11

1215.8.2007 22:10
WierdName
Inactive

Originally posted by Unfocused:
Cataloging a MP3 collection is a hell of a project, perfectionist or not. I've got around 2 TB of music, and I've set a standard for myself that everyhting must be listened to, renamed to fit a pre set standard, and then tagged before it goes into my archives. I realalistically understand that I probably will never finish this project.
Holy crap! 2 TB of music?! No offense, but I don't see you finishing that kind of project anytime soon.

1316.8.2007 0:24
SamNz
Inactive

*double post*

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 16 Aug 2007 @ 0:32

1416.8.2007 0:29
SamNz
Inactive

Quote:
Originally posted by Unfocused:
Cataloging a MP3 collection is a hell of a project, perfectionist or not. I've got around 2 TB of music, and I've set a standard for myself that everything must be listened to, renamed to fit a pre set standard, and then tagged before it goes into my archives. I realistically understand that I probably will never finish this project.
Holy crap! 2 TB of music?! No offense, but I don't see you finishing that kind of project anytime soon.
haha i have 8gb and i like it to have good tags like 80% of it is and i really cant be bothered doing the other 20 cause i hardly eva listen to it

and again you can get alot of music in flac (i personaly dont use it due to hdd size :( which is free nd lossless y would you want to pay for somthing less

1516.8.2007 0:30

wow 2tb of music that must of cost you a lot of money knowing that you bought it all legally.lol but as far as the article goes. meh i dont really care that much its just another cat v.s. mouse game.

1616.8.2007 0:54
alim20
Inactive

How is this going to stop my bootleg cd guy from selling me 3 cd's for $10? I mean when will these guys just get it that you will never stop the streets from pirating the rich folks products?

I don't download music because of viruses and my cd guy has been selling for 5 years receiving only peddler tickets for selling without a license. Does anyone actually know anyone in jail for selling music? Street bootleggers are not going anywhere.

1716.8.2007 5:59
duckNrun
Inactive

I wonder if sound that is not perceptible to the human ear WOULD still somehow come across a sub or tweeters thereby altering the resonance allowing SOMETHING to become noticeable.. maybe some kind of distotion or something like that.

One argument I hear about compression is even though the sounds removed are supposedly inaudible it is those very sounds that help create a fullness to the quality as opposed to say a tinny-ness..

The adding of inaudible sounds theoretically MAY cause the same 'problems'

1816.8.2007 6:50

Quote:
Originally posted by nonoitall:
Ah. No, I just like perfect (or at least as perfect as digital gets) audio - never said I was an organized perfectionist. ;-)
Lol, I do too. As for the organization, it only goes as far as a couple folders scattered across a couple drives/partitions and filenames of artist-songtitle.mp3/wma/etc

EDIT- grammer

I hear ya on the categorizing. I have around 50gb of music, and after a few years of organizing I still find errors.

1916.8.2007 6:54

this is just going to cause lots of lawsuits on people passing the songs unknowingly to friends. not to mention music travels once it is digital. plus, i dont want they knowing what i listen to and know where i am. that is just bs.

2016.8.2007 8:00

Originally posted by anubis66:
this is just going to cause lots of lawsuits on people passing the songs unknowingly to friends. not to mention music travels once it is digital. plus, i dont want they knowing what i listen to and know where i am. that is just bs.
If you are going to share your music, just share it with people you know. Not with 1,000 people on bittorrent, or any other file sharing medium that can be tracked. And who the heck uses bittorrent for sharing music anyway?

DRM sucks, but I see no problem in this technology. Unless it evolves to the point where my PC gets remotely scanned unbeknownst to me for a song that I may have ripped from a friends CD.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 16 Aug 2007 @ 8:02

2116.8.2007 11:32

Sure you'd need a supercomputer and a lot of time, but I would imagine you'd only need to crack it once and then create a program that strips files of the watermark.

But still, that would probably involve re-encoding the audio, which would suck.

2216.8.2007 12:10

Dog-whistles anyone? http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/noise_educatio...m1/intro_3.html
If the sound range is out of the human ears ability, why not set an editor to strip everything above and below humans range?

2316.8.2007 13:02

i don't understand.

If i put on of these songs on my mp3 player, how are they going to know i am listening to it. There is no transmitter on my mp3 player.

They could only track it if i listen to it on my PC with a live internet connection...yes ?

2416.8.2007 14:17

@MightyOne

Wouldn't this be just another variation of invasion of privacy? And If I'm using something older to play my MP3's on the computer (Sonique, Winamp 2.5, etc.) would they still be able to track my listening data?

2516.8.2007 14:19

Originally posted by Unfocused:
@MightyOne

Wouldn't this be just another variation of invasion of privacy? And If I'm using something older to play my MP3's on the computer (Sonique, Winamp 2.5, etc.) would they still be able to track my listening data?
Haven't you heard? Privacy doesn't fall under "fair use."

2616.8.2007 14:23

That's great that the human ear can't hear it but I dont want my dog barking for no reason or a bunch of deer dancing in my yard.

2716.8.2007 17:42

It would be better than DRM! At least you would "own" the music.

Quote:
The purpose of these watermarks range from digital tracking of content, to marketing matrix that allow companies to get statistics on who has listened to their particular audio.
I'm not buying that story. They don't know what anybody's listening to. They want to find music on the Net and then find out who's iTunes account it came from.

Quote:
Well, personally, I'd rather not have the audio I buy unnecessarily tampered with, even if that tampering "is not perceptible by the human ear". It goes against my perfectionist nature, just like buying lossy music in the first place. :-P
I can relate to that! I try to avoid compression, and I feel guilty whenever I set my equalizer on anything but "flat". LOL

Quote:
Dog-whistles anyone? http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/noise_educatio...m1/intro_3.html
If the sound range is out of the human ears ability, why not set an editor to strip everything above and below humans range?
I don't think the watermarking is simply out of the human frequency range. 44.1kHz sampling is pretty much limited to what a (young) person can hear already. (You can't digitize a dog whistle at 44.1kHz.) The main theory behind lossy compression is that it throws-away details that you can't hear. Most of it is based on "masking" (drowning-out). So, the idea would be to have the side-effects of the watermark decoded as very low-level noise or distortion that's drowned-out by the music. ...But I still don't want any junk added to my music!

Re-coding probably would remove the watermark, at the cost of a 2nd lossy encode.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 16 Aug 2007 @ 17:54

2816.8.2007 18:00

Quote:
If you are going to share your music, just share it with people you know. Not with 1,000 people on bittorrent, or any other file sharing medium that can be tracked. And who the heck uses bittorrent for sharing music anyway?
But if ONE of your friends gives a copy to another friend, and it gets uploaded to the Net... They'll track it back to your iTunes account! And, then the RIAA will come knockin'.

2916.8.2007 18:57
WierdName
Inactive

Originally posted by H0bbes:
I hear ya on the categorizing. I have around 50gb of music, and after a few years of organizing I still find errors.
I just gave up after awhile. Lol.

3016.8.2007 19:59

Dont like it The tracking idea the Water MArk the invasion of personel preffernce. Oh and you still dont own the music. If some one manages to here the water mark whats it gonna say. Were greedy basterds copy these and more money comes are way.

3117.8.2007 5:31
alim20
Inactive

So let's say I bought 50 cents album from itunes. (g unit is a client of the company behind this article selling drm technology) and I made 5 copies for my friends. Are they saying that could come back to harm me legally some time down the road? This is stupid. Out of all my friends there is not one person I know who has never received a cd for free from a friend.

3217.8.2007 8:03

Originally posted by c1c:
That's great that the human ear can't hear it but I dont want my dog barking for no reason or a bunch of deer dancing in my yard.
Now that would be a very intresting news report, Just imagine the disclaimer they would have to add to every product.

3317.8.2007 10:12

Quote:
Originally posted by anubis66:
this is just going to cause lots of lawsuits on people passing the songs unknowingly to friends. not to mention music travels once it is digital. plus, i dont want they knowing what i listen to and know where i am. that is just bs.
If you are going to share your music, just share it with people you know. Not with 1,000 people on bittorrent, or any other file sharing medium that can be tracked. And who the heck uses bittorrent for sharing music anyway?

DRM sucks, but I see no problem in this technology. Unless it evolves to the point where my PC gets remotely scanned unbeknownst to me for a song that I may have ripped from a friends CD.
accually, i use torrents to download music, and not lame pp programs. with torrents, i cant get a whole album in one swing with higher transfer speeds than anything else. even when i need one song or two, i will download the album torrent and select only the songs i want for dl. its so much easier than dealing with p2p programs like limewire.

3417.8.2007 17:31

This article is funny because the more ways they come up with to stop music downloads and mark their stuff people find easier ways around their so called anti-piracy product.

3517.8.2007 17:37
webe123
Inactive

Sorry, but this is NOT songs with no DRM in them. I do not buy that for a second.

They DO have DRM, in that they are watermarked! They may not have traditional DRM that restricts you on what devcice you play it on, but that does not mean it does not track you....which is only a little different than what traditional DRM does...as DRM is restrictive as to what device it plays on.

So basically this is DRM music that is tracked on the net with compatibility for all players. OR another FORM of DRM! That is it in a nutshell.

If you are going to be stupid enough to fall for this, I feel sorry for you.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 17 Aug 2007 @ 17:41

3618.8.2007 20:45

Originally posted by webe123:
Sorry, but this is NOT songs with no DRM in them. I do not buy that for a second.

They DO have DRM, in that they are watermarked! They may not have traditional DRM that restricts you on what devcice you play it on, but that does not mean it does not track you....which is only a little different than what traditional DRM does...as DRM is restrictive as to what device it plays on.

So basically this is DRM music that is tracked on the net with compatibility for all players. OR another FORM of DRM! That is it in a nutshell.

If you are going to be stupid enough to fall for this, I feel sorry for you.
As long as you dont do anything you shouldn't with it, i.e upload it onto the internet, it seems fully reasonable to do this. The only people this should bother are the people who buy music then upload it to bittorrent, those are the people who will get snapped quickly, anyone else should not even be bothered by it.
That is providing it is truly undetectable to both the human ear, and as mentioned, animal ears as well(which is probably the biggest problem). All in all I would say its still not perfect, but its a bloody big step in the right directon.

3719.8.2007 17:16

webe123 these are tunes without DRM no matter what you say. The only big reason not to accept these is to imply that you would share them with others.

MightyOne you are asking the right questions. Most of this is developers trying to make a buck off the even greeder pigs that have no sense of technology. I would not need a super computer to foul the water mark. Any standard audio tools will bugger that one up. I hope the pigs are not listening! I love to hear that they have bought yet another doomsday device that only a fool would believe that it would work.

Weirdname I am impressed! You can't have much of a life and must have been doing this for ever. At least you can't be married or have the most amiable wife ever! That would take a serious amount of time effort to manage. What software to do use to manage it. I have been using Media Monkey and have been very pleased.

3819.8.2007 20:50

I am so not for this this is worse than drm. No to anything that can be placed and tracked or traced.

3919.8.2007 21:07
WierdName
Inactive

Originally posted by borhan9:
I am so not for this this is worse than drm. No to anything that can be placed and tracked or traced.
But haven't you heard? We aren't responsible enough so we need to be tracked like cattle with tags on our ears.

4020.8.2007 2:20

Quote:
The CEO of Activated Content states that it would take a user with a supercomputer and about a month's worth of time to be able to successfully Track down and remove an inserted watermark.
What rubbish! You just take two copies of the same track from different people (e.g. different audio watermarks) and then you compare them!! Then you'll find the audio watermark in seconds and you can scramble it.

4120.8.2007 2:25

WOW weirdname, whats next huh. Oh i know the day were born the put tracking chips in the back of are head. or mabey they well brand us with the must products we pushased most of when branded you can no longer buy competetor products or youll be shot on site and fed to the trolls.

4220.8.2007 2:32

enigma644, that depends if its using I/O bit Stop as a watermarking or not. there were games that used i/o bit stoping as drm the game would work it would just f itself up to an unplayable state.

4320.8.2007 6:18

DXR88 could you explain a bit more about the using I/O bit Stop? This sounds interesting. Maybe they are smarter than I thought they were. Without really understanding that concept, I bet something like that might work. I do have a guess what I/O stop bits are. The first part of the file could be marked as being watermarked. Then they could easily select only the watermarked tunes to work on. They would need a flag at a defined spot not to waste time on non-watermarked files. They could harvest a bunch of files saving the IP address then work on them. They would need an easy test so they could discard the non watermarked tunes before they waste much CPU time on them.

4420.8.2007 13:10

I/O bit stop is basicly what it sounds like. Games were the first to use it. What happens is this A lot of video crackers will no what im talking about. the game would run but when the game was copied it was done so when I/O bit stop was enabled. Copyers and burner would appeare to reconize this data so it would be burned the thing is the code is reverised and scrambled when loaded into the buffers of copiers and burners. the game would appear to work fine except that one of two things would happen the grafics would blur out so much that you could see nothing. or your keyboard would stop unexpectedly. I/O bit stop however could very well be dangerous to Ipod or other internet connected Mp3 players. They could for instances kill your ipod built in os without having to kill the player. kill the os as in stop it temporaly or completly stop it.
Or the music could render itself useless. However ripping the code out would do the same as destroying the music.

4520.8.2007 16:39

Simplest way to under stand I/O bit Stop is this (Sample code)<=1 >=0 (equal non stop bit encoded audio =101001110100100111000101/

stop bit encoded audio=1>0<0>>0<<01100>01< were > < are encoded 1&0

in sense of this there will be watermarks with stop bit information on > < sense ripping them out is now out of the question sense there bits of info not a stream. the water mark is likly 1=ultra high frequency beep while 0 more than likly will be an ultra low frequency. but ripping out any one bit will be like scratching a cd scratch enought audio no longer will play or it will stutter skip or just fail to start at all.

my geuss is the only one way to find out and decode the info is to steal the keys from RIAA database server in witch the key will be gaurded by I.T lackey that get paid million to guard this stuff like a dog.

however if one of the keys get stolen or decoded they could easily just replace it with a new code remember. the water mark is bing copy righted not the bits that hide the bit stop technology

4621.8.2007 3:12

Sorry, I still don’t understand the =, > and < are you bracketing the information
>information2<
>>information3<<

I was expecting the stop bit to be like a stop byte for character strings. In some programming languages, character strings are a bunch of bytes with a null byte on the end. The stop byte is not part of the character string but defines the end. However, you can only have one ‘flavor’ of NULL. I don't know that much about audio technology.

4721.8.2007 11:19
WierdName
Inactive

You know, this "solution" brings to attention the same problem of what if someone steals your music? Or say you lose an object like an Ipod or memory card etc. that had your music on it. Then what happens if someone finds it then posts all the music online? Are they going to implement something to report lost or stolen data? And if they do, how will you be able to remember everything you have/had? And even further into the issue, how do they know you don't just report stolen data so that you can post it online without them thinking it's you? This still leaves a lot of problems.

4821.8.2007 12:49

o.k. maybe this will help. "We Humans" hear sounds from 20Hz (maybe some of us)to 20,000Hz (again, maybe some of us). "We Humans" don't really care for sounds past these areas (lower than 20Hz and Higher than 22,000Hz). So it is simple. Someone can use any good "wave editing" program to cut out the sounds past those areas - while keeping the other areas in place. Some programs call it a "High-pass filter" or "Low-pass filter" to help "clean-up" unwanted "noise" from the music they are editing.
I'm "sure" that if "Audio Watermarking" makes it "mainstream" that someone will make $$ by creating a small program that you just pass your music through to "clean" them.

4921.8.2007 13:53

Wont work they will use a program to scan for the watermark. Whats the fbi going to do listen to stacks of water marked cd to see if they can hear audible water mark sounds. No i Doubt it

5021.8.2007 14:05

Mez the > < are incoded bits with bit stop tecnology. alright if this bit has been alterd with music stop on alter commandthe flag at the front and end are just start here stop here. but the real problims in the music itself

start music if no alter found contenue play. stop music on bit alter and skip to end music intiate alert message warnig on bit tampering

5122.8.2007 18:20

Would this watermark consist of a single frequency, or multiple tones?

I forget the technical name for it, but my Clarion DSP has a noise filter built into it. This filter effectively flips the sound coming out of one channel, runs both channels through the processor and then flips the channel back to normal before putting this out to the speakers. The processor will remove any sounds that are identical on the flipped and normal channels. This works great for stuff like alternator whine, tape hiss, static, etc.

I would think that this would effectively eliminate this watermark without a need to trim frequencies or re encode the source file.

5223.8.2007 18:45

What if you just 'record what your hear'? Problem solved.



5323.8.2007 19:42
WierdName
Inactive

Originally posted by c1c:
What if you just 'record what your hear'? Problem solved.
Because if the speaker and microphone are both capable of playing and recording the same sound, then the problem isn't solved.

Doesnt expecting the unexpected make the unexpected expected and therefore mean youre expecting the expected which was the unexpected until you expected it?
"Opinions are immunities to being told were wrong." - Relient K

5424.8.2007 7:51

Another reason why peer to peer file sharing will continue. People will be worried about buying watermarked songs and it geting out to the net. I don't think the entertainment industry will care if your music was stolen or given away to a single friend who shared it with the wrong party. You will be sued as if you did it on purpose. You will have to settle in court for some outrageous figure because you will never be able to prove it wasn't your fault. The RIAA will have hard proof it was your mp3 making law suits quicker and easier for them. I would rather have DRM I can get rid of by simply burning it to a CD than a watermarked song which is there forever.

5524.8.2007 9:06

Just buy the watermarked song and then download the flac from the net. Nothing wrong here.



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