A digital watermark to prevent piracy

Hannes Mareen
04 February 2018 |

Is the door about to slam on the millions of viewers who download their favourite box sets illegally? In his master's thesis in Computer Sciences, Hannes Mareen has worked out a way to thwart digital piracy.

‘Everyone downloads something illegally at some time, but it's costing the film industrie about EUR 130 billion a year. No woner they are desperate for an answer. One source of illegal downloads is the film critic. They receive an avant première of, say, Game Of Thrones, to write a review. Every version has a unique letter code, to stop them from leaking the video. It makes the video difficult to watch, and it can be easily deleted.

That got me looking for an invisible and indelible watermark. Videos get compressed to make them easier to disseminate digitally. The video-encoder does this by predicting small areas of a video on the strength of other small areas: in. a video about forest, for example, it predicts that one leaf will appear beside another. It makes tiny errors in the process, which hardly anyone notices. I introduce my watermark during compressssion, by subtly altering a tiny region. Then the software generates more alterations automatically. This unique collection of alterations - invisible and indelible - is my watermark. I've since received an SB grant from the FWO to develop the. method further in a PhD - and for my thesis I won the Agoria Prize, for the best thesis on technological innovation.’

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