Audio Watermarks Locate Camcording Pirates

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Camcording pirates pose a serious threat to the profits of Hollywood, according to the MPAA at least. In order to stop the cammers in their tracks, theater owners have been equipped with night-vision goggles. That's not all though, the latest Hollywood blockbusters may soon come with watermarked audio that can pinpoint a pirate's seat number.

piracyHindering piracy is priority number one for theater employees nowadays, and there is even a $500 award for those who manage to catch one. In dealing with a tiny minority, theater owners are slowly alienating their customers and even go as far as using metal detectors and night-vision goggles to track down movie cammers. Everyone is treated like a pirate these days.

The efforts are paying off nicely though. The night vision goggles helped to spot Batman and Bond pirates and a Virgina teenager was busted a while back for recording a few seconds of the movie Transformers on her cell-phone. The only thing she wanted to do was show it to her 13 year old brother, however, the alert theater staff called in the police and the girl was arrested.

With one of the latest inventions by Prof. Babaguchi and colleagues, catching cammers might become even easier. While video-based watermarks are already used in theaters in order to determine which screen the movie was recorded from, new technology makes it possible to watermark the audio of films too.

The audio watermarks go much further though, as they can pinpoint almost the exact location that the pirate was in when he recorded the movie. This so called spread-spectrum audio watermarking does not spoil the subjective acoustic quality and is fairly accurate in estimating where the offender was seated.

With a mean estimation error of only 44 centimeters, it might be a seat off every now and then, but those are worries for later. To use the technology successfully, however, the theater has to keep a database with info on the identity and seating position of each member of the public so the offenders can be handed over to the police afterwards.

These administrative tasks can of course take place while waiting in line for the metal-detector, and might even come in handy to contact someone who forgot to pick up his phone after the movie ended. The movie-goers can still enjoy a great night out if they pass all the nice security checks and they wont be bothered by any buzzing camcorders anymore.

Everyone wins really.


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