April 22, 2004

On Watermarks and Fingerprints

There was some elision of fingerprints and watermarks during this panel. These are quite distinct, as a discussion by Mike Godwin reveals. (See pp. 9-17. Warning: It's a big PDF file.) A fingerprint, as the name implies, is a unique (or thereabouts) identifier of a specific work (where a "work" can be anything from a line of text to a computer program to a motion picture). A watermark is a pattern or some other arrangement merged with a work; it may be perceptible or imperceptible. The difference between them, as a practical matter, is that fingerprints just serve as identifiers, while watermarks can carry instructions for permissible uses of the content. This difference, in turn, imposes rather different requirements on the technology that would be required to make them effective for copy control.

Posted by aaronb at April 22, 2004 03:25 PM
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