Skip to main content

Philips Pitches Video Watermarking

Who uploaded that clip to YouTube? A unit of Philips Electronics is marketing a watermarking technology to the cable- and broadcast-TV industries that will embed an invisible, unique identifier in a video signal to let content owners trace pirated video back to a specific pay TV subscriber, even if the video’s quality has been severely degraded, the company claimed.

Called VTrack, the system is designed to be integrated into digital-video devices, such as set-top boxes and digital-television sets. The company’s Philips Content Identification unit said the technology is supported by set-top chip-makers Broadcom, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.

Other companies that have developed similar video-watermarking technologies include Dolby Laboratories’ Cinea subsidiary, Digimarc, Verimatrix and Widevine Technologies.

"The main piracy threat in pay TV so far has been theft of service, which has been addressed by conditional access and digital-rights management,” Philips Content Identification CEO Alex Terpstra said in a prepared statement. “Now with the increased availability of HD devices and content, the capture and distribution of high-quality content copies is a new threat requiring a different approach."

According to Philips, VTrack watermarks cannot be stripped out from video even if the signal is cropped, compressed or degraded.

Fox Entertainment Group president of engineering Andrew G. Setos said he expects to work with Philips to test the watermarking system in the lab.

"Forensic watermarks have already shown their merit in pay TV applications and help to protect our premium content from unauthorized redistribution by counterfeiters and others," he said in a prepared statement.

In December, Philips Content Identification introduced a system to identify copyrighted material that has been uploaded to video-sharing Web sites.