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Digital Watermarking from NEC Research

Techstination feature for Friday, May 7, 1999

Stopping cyber-thieves. I'm Fred Fishkin with Bootcamp, a report on computers and technology. The whole world, it seems, is going digital. Music, books, art, photography, film. And one of the big problems is protecting ownership rights. When things are digital, perfect copies can be made pretty easily. That's why a breakthrough called Digital Watermarking is important. Dr. William Gear, who heads the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey...says digital technology, for instance, DVD movies, give you much better picture and sound quality...

"The down side of that great fidelity and what makes the content providers very nervous is the ease of copying very high fidelity images. So Digital Watermarking embeds a signal in the visual signal that is imperceptible to the human eye but can be detected by a computer like chip and determine the source of the information."

And if a DVD, say, is illegally copied...

"The idea is that the standard DVD players will refuse to play back material that hasn't got the appropriate protection on it."

It may not be fool proof, says Dr. Gear, but it's a start. The NEC Research ten years old...a couple of other nifty projects in the wings, including holographic storage, sounds like the old Superman movie....and new ways to store information on many computers at once, so that if one crashes, or a web site goes down, you can still get to the information you need.