Digital watermarking has been used since the 1990s in an impressive variety of business applications,
including broadcast monitoring, deterrence of pre-release leaks of movies and music through forensic
content tracking, rights management, remote triggering of devices and counterfeit deterrence.
Watermarking is a proven, scalable and widely deployed technology that identifies content accurately,
reliably, and quickly. The technology has already been integrated in both traditional and digital workflows in
multiple industries.

Digital watermarking involves a simple process of embedding imperceptible digital information into all forms
of content, including images, documents, audio and video. Because the watermark is imperceptible, it will
not interfere with consumers’ enjoyment of the content they consume. Once embedded, the watermark
persists with the content through manipulation, copying, compression, file conversions and virtually any
other transformation that digital content can undergo. The watermark can carry information that allows the
content itself to “communicate” where it comes from, who owns it, how it may be used, and whatever other
information the holder of copyright wishes to convey. A watermark may also be used to trigger predefined
automatic actions, including linking to websites or other interactive experiences.

The persistence of digital watermarks is important, because online content is routinely copied, shared,
transformed and re-purposed in an increasing variety of ways, which means that identifiers and metadata
carried by the container of the content (file headers, bit streams, etc.) can easily be damaged or lost as
content is disseminated across the web. A watermark persists as an intrinsic part of the content,
independent of the container or how it is packaged, and it is easily detectable by devices – from enterprise
servers to the smallest consumer handhelds – equipped with a reader application. The watermark’s
persistence in the content itself means that it is always present and fully functional as an identifier,
independent of packaging, distribution channels, platforms or devices that deliver the content to the

Another key characteristic of digital watermarking is its ability to identify content at the level of individual
items. Unique identifiers can be embedded in every instance or copy of a particular piece of content. For
example, the distributor of a movie can watermark each individual copy of that movie with its own unique
identifiers, so that the digital path that each copy takes as it travels among organizations, individuals and
devices can be traced. The same mechanism can be used to distinguish between trailers and full-length
copies of a film. Such features become especially useful when content identification is used for tracking,
auditing and reporting, and can provide important insights into usage patterns and consumer behavior in
highly specific contexts.


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