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Auto audio watermarking on plugins? True?
Old 7th September 2011
  #1
Lives for gear
 

Auto audio watermarking on plugins? True?

I've just read that quite a few plugin companies... allegedly Waves and Tone2 amongst others use Audio Watermarking in their products for anti Piracy use.

Whilst I'm not against a tracking process are we sure that it does not effect the audio in some slight way?

Having extra audio embedded that is not the processed original audio does not sound like fun! But then neither is having your product pirated.
Old 7th September 2011
  #2
Lives for gear
The laws of physics still apply and the idea of audio watermarking is just impossible.

From the 80s onwards, all sorts of companies have been trying to create an audio watermark, but the only way of effectively doing this, would be by keeping things 100% in the digital domain and using SW that allowed the SN of the plug-ins to be included in the summing information. Just one conversion to analogue and back again, and the whole thing is gone.

All sorts of tricks have already been tried and have failed. Steep and very selective notch filters, very fast moving sweep filters, you name it and someone has had a go. The problem is not only that you have to be able to identify who has used the process, but also you have to make it stand up in a court of law - each time and every time and 'beyond all reasonable doubt' etc.

There are billions, possibly even trillions at stake here, as we are talking about creating hardware that just would not play 'illegally' copied films and music, so the sums that have been thrown at this problem have been considerable - but all to no avail. A tiny company like Waves is unlikely to have been able to crack the media business equivalent of the Riemann Hypothesis, so we have to assume that they are either just blowing smoke, or they have come up with a simple marker that may be enough to tell them that there is some possibility of unwarranted use of their software, but not enough to provide proof.
Old 7th September 2011
  #3
There is a protection scheme in use on the audio of some Blu-Ray discs that prevents illegally copied audio from playing on a machine that contains the chip for this proprietary system; in is used primarily in games and perhaps some movies. Allegedly it is effective even if the audio is copied via analog rip. However as a protection scheme for audio it doesn't work.

Why?

Because it only prevents playback on systems equipped with the chip - copies play back fine on anything else. This means that while it may offer and amount of protection for a game or movie, it's pretty ineffective for music piracy which generally involves playback on a generic system like an MP3 player, computer, or CD player.

The system also has allegedly been cracked already and it doesn't offer any identification features, just simple blocking.

There have been rumors that some of the companies distributing promo material to DJs have started embedding a unique watermark in discs sent out to track which DJs might be putting promo discs up on pirate sites. This is a different thing than either the alleged scheme used for software protection of the Blu-Ray scheme, as it involves inserting a unique ID into the program at the disc duplication stage. I have not seen or heard any evidence that such a scheme is actually being used, however, just claims by several of the DJ promo services that they're doing it. It could very well be that it's simply a disinformation campaign designed to discourage DJs from becoming pirate sources - or it could be real. I don't know of anybody who's been willing to test it or anyone who has tried lab comparison of copies of the same material sent to different DJs.

As far as the scheme in the OP's question is concerned, AFAIK it's a myth. Since plugins are commonly used in chains any attempt to apply a watermark in the processing would be cumulative and would almost certainly cause degradation of the audio. It would also be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to unscramble all the various watermarks used in the course of a multichannel production.
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