Philips watermark tech traces pirated TV content

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Los Angeles (CA) – Philips today announced a “forensic” watermarking tool for video content which allows copyright holders to follow the path of pirated content back to a specific PayTV subscriber.

The technology, called VTrack, uses an “imperceptible and indelible unique identifier” embedded into the video signal, which can be used to determine a potential pirate of video content.

While Philips claims that VTrack is “consumer friendly” and that it will enable content providers to “confidently broadcast more high definition and early release material that is typically at higher risk for piracy,” the firm believes that its approach is strong enough to have an impact on mass piracy. “By utilizing watermarking technology in set-top boxes, content pirates will expose themselves to greater legal risk if they attempt large-scale redistribution of improperly obtained content,” the firm said in a prepared statement.

According to the developer, the watermarks “cannot be separated from the content” and cannot be “altered”. Pirated content can be traced back to the original PayTV subscriber “even after severe quality degradation of the video such as scaling, cropping, compression and camcorder copying.”

VTrack is currently demonstrated at the NAB 2007 conference and is expected to be   be supported by chipset vendors including Broadcom, ST and Texas Instruments. Philips said that the technology is targeting primarily set-top boxes and integrated digital TVs. It can be applied to standard-definition and high-definition video content and is compatible with MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC and VC-1 formats.