IBM & NEC to Cooperate in Establishing Common Standard to Prevent Illegal Copying of Digital Video Discs

New standard will integrate both companies' leading-edge electronic watermark technology for motion pictures

TOKYO-July 16, 1998-Two of the world's leading forces in information technology research, IBM* and NEC**, have agreed to establish the first effective digital watermarking standard to electronically protect the copyright of digital contents such as digital video discs (DVD).

The two firms plan to integrate their respective advanced electronic watermark technology for motion pictures and then present their single standard to the Copyright Protection Technical Working Group (CPTWG) for proposed adoption by this international organization, which promotes technology for preventing illegal copying of electronic copyrighted materials.

Conventional watermarks have long been used to authenticate currencies and important documents by embedding an almost-invisible official mark within the paper itself. Similarly, electronic watermarks can authenticate electronic images by embedding hidden data patterns within the video signal. Like regular watermarks, electronic watermarks are invisible and do not affect the quality of the video image, but they can be easily detected with special chips and made visible to prove whether a video image is an authentic copy.

The new electronic watermark technology is designed particularly for use with DVD technology, which is emerging as the format of the future for storing video images, allowing full-length movies to be stored on a disc about the same size as a Compact Disc (CD). But the digital format also allows virtually perfect copies, a factor that makes it easy for high-quality, illegal copies to be made.

Thus, developing technical measures to prevent illegal copying has become an urgent priority for movie makers and distributors. Currently, DVD systems use a number of technologies to prevent illegal copying, including a method for scrambling data using cryptograms, called the "content scrambling system" (CSS), and a function called "analog protection system" (APS) which prevents copying by generating noise on the video screen if a copy is made.

Thus, electronic watermark technology jointly promoted by IBM and NEC is intended to supplement conventional copy protection technologies and utilize a method of embedding invisible electronic watermarks within content data. A circuit for detecting electronic watermarks will be incorporated into LSI chips within DVD video players and the DVD drives of personal computers. This will prevent the content from being illegally copied and make it impossible to playback illegally copied content. Nevertheless, in order to encourage home use of recordable DVDs, this electronic watermark technology will enable users to make a one-time-only copy allowing people, for example, to record television programs for later viewing as they do today with video tape recorders.

The goal of the joint work between IBM and NEC is to incorporate their electronic watermark technology into DVD content and also to enable DVD equipment to decode embedded information in 1999. The two companies also plan to promote the future application of this technology in digital satellite broadcasts and to digital video cassette tapes.



* IBM is a trade mark of IBM Corporation.
** NEC is a trademark of NEC Corporation.