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August 16, 2016

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Watermarking and Digital Fingerprinting: Discerning the Appropriate Use Cases for Each

As Steve Oetegenn explained in a previous Pay TV Views post, watermarking plays a pivotal role in protecting many types of premium content from threats of piracy, but it may be somewhat limited in its potential if not integrated with other security components designed to detect the source of illegally redistributed content.

One tool in particular that can be combined with watermarking to provide an effective end-to-end approach for identifying and ceasing illicit streams of video content is digital fingerprinting. However, in many cases it can be all too easy to confuse the techniques behind watermarking and digital fingerprinting. Oftentimes, these terms are referenced interchangeably, causing frequent misunderstandings of the real value that each of the tools can offer.

Digital fingerprinting application is often related to the use-case during which it is required to categorize or differentiate similar content files, relying on generations of a digital signature from the video content. Although, historically, on-screen display (OSD) fingerprinting has been used in many use cases for adding text or a numerical label to a video during consumption, today we refer to this technique as on-screen messaging. Contrast to digital fingerprinting, on-screen messaging is directly under the control of the CAS or DRM system and does not modify characteristics of the video. On-screen messaging can be used to display an identifier from the client device at a particular position on the screen; however, history has shown that this technique can be easily blocked or modified because graphics can be overlaid on top of the video. This could not be achieved through video watermarking. 

Watermarking is a more robust technology for protecting against threats of redistribution because it inserts identifying features directly into the video content that can be traced back their legitimate sources. A true watermarking solution, such as the Verimatrix VideoMark® toolbox, can ensure seamless watermark insertion with minimal to no impact to the viewer. By combining a large, secure range of payload values with different use cases for imperceptible watermarking, covert video watermarking, and overt video watermarking, VideoMark distinguishes itself as a truly commercial-grade solution that can protect a variety of different content types.

To further clarify any confusion between the true use cases of watermarking and digital fingerprinting, Verimatrix has developed a new e-brief which further explains the appropriate application of both of these techniques. You can access the e-brief here.

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