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Simple Copyright Leak Protection

Make it harder for individuals to copy your work
  (+4, -1)
(+4, -1)
  [vote for,

The debate around copyright infringement and rights with regards to movies, music and text-based works is best reserved for another place. My intent here is not to spark that debate again.

Hopefully you can look beyond that debate to my idea and rate it for its potential effectiveness.

Currently, movies, music and books are often 'leaked' to the hordes of peer-to-peer file sharers before they are even released to the public. Recent examples include the Transformers movie and the last Harry Potter book.

The leaks often originate (from what I've read) with proof readers, editors, prescreeners and others involved in the actual production of the works. In my opinion, MP3 debate aside, these leaks constitute a breach of professionalism. While the vast majority of these folk are surely honest, the few who leak works could be easily caught with the following idea.

I propose that a random number of authors/directors/musicians change one small thing in each of the copies of a book/movie/album they send out to these folk. It would not have to be anything major. For example, only one word would need to be changed in an entire book.

In the event that a leak occurs, it would only be necessary to look for the one distinguishing feature to track down the source and appropriate legal action could be taken.

After a few weeks/months where a high number of works use this idea and the word gets around, the number could be reduced. However the possibility that the book an editor is editing could contain one random word directly traceable to him/her should ensure he/she thinks twice before leaking it to the masses.

Thank you for your comments.

victor, Jul 20 2007

Columbo's first name. http://www.columbo-.../firstnamecourt.htm
Deliberate "mistake" to catch out plagiarists. [Jinbish, Jul 23 2007]

Network Security Illustrated: Digital Watermarking http://www.openlyse...l_watermarking.html
Not all digital watermarking is unique to individual copies, but some is, for the reasons you describe. [jutta, Jul 23 2007]

Digital Watermarking Alliance http://www.digitalw...arkingalliance.org/
Media and technology companies. [jutta, Jul 23 2007]

Wikipedia: Fictitious entry http://en.wikipedia...ki/Fictitious_entry
[jutta, Jul 23 2007]

Straight Dope: Copyright Traps http://www.straight...lassics/a4_165.html
On the geographical version of the Mountweazel (which, I guess, should be called Mt Weazel, but isn't.) [jutta, Jul 23 2007]

Wikipedia: Canary trap (Tom Clancy) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canary_trap
The device mentioned by shapu. [jutta, Jul 24 2007]


       OK. Let's see if I understand.   

       Every person obtaining a copy of the unreleased material for legitimate purposes gets a copy of it slightly altered for him/her and him/her alone?   

       The cost of maintaining such a system alone could fishbone this. And I don't think you can make it fool-proof enough to make it worthwhile.   

       I would simply need to collude with my co-worker, get her copy and run a file compare, then change the differing text to something else. And that's only one simple work-around.   

       It's cute, and definitely half-baked.
globaltourniquet, Jul 20 2007

       globaltourniquet - I don't think there are THAT many proof readers for say, a book. There may not be more than a dozen. "Maintaining such a system" could be as easy as a scrap of paper.   

       pg 84 # of statues in the field Jenny 6 Bill 13 John 4 etc.   

       I'm assuming people rarely get digital copies of books...mostly for this same reason.
victor, Jul 20 2007

       A simple canary trap. I like it, should it work out to be feasible.
Custardguts, Jul 23 2007

       This technique is a pretty old one. I think it originates from the days of mapmakers. They used to put slight inaccuracies into maps to then show that someone had copied their map, rather than make their own.   

       Similarly, a writer of a trivial knowledge book once placed the question: "What is TV detective Lt. Columbo's first name" (A. "Philip").
At the time he had not been given a first name, so when the question appeared in Trivial Pursuit; it was clear that this question (if not many others) had been copied.
<<<<Full story (linky).

       If you propose having a unique change in *every* copy of the book then perhaps a list of interchangeable words could be drawn up and then replaced á la binary. That gives 2^X possibilities. For Harry Potter (sales>300m) we'd need 22 phrases - so change the "abracadabra" with "hocus pocus" (sic).   

       But that doesn't take into account the various hands that the book passes through at the production/printing/editting stage. So that might mean that less abra=>hocus. Might not be as bad as [globaltourniquet] fears...
Jinbish, Jul 23 2007

       Another (albeit accidental) example of this is that the map used on Euro notes was copied with a mistake on it.   

       [globaltourniquet] Even with an exagerated example of 1000 copies costing $1000 each, it could easily lead to saving (or suing the guilty person for) over a million dollars.   

       You could ask writers to include junk dialogue which could easily contain binary modifications. "Hey Harry, how many jelly beans did you get in your pack? 47, I only got 35 in mine". "Our race first came to Earth 37,438,296 years ago, since then we only came back once, 12,483,927 years later"
marklar, Jul 23 2007

       "Junk dialogue" in Harry Potter books? Surely not!
hippo, Jul 23 2007

       Thanks for all the feedback. Looks like this is at least partially bunned already then.
victor, Jul 23 2007

       The electronic, end-user version of this practice is a form of something called "Digital Watermarking", where the least significant bits of some media format - for example, MP3 noise or image encoding noise on a DVD - are changed to encode a copy's unique owner.   

       Its success depends on
- its secrecy or technological inaccessibility; if you know that the watermark is there, and you can generate ones yourself, you can change the one on your copy
- a distribution model other than cash consumer sales; you need to know who you're selling to before encoding that person's identity.

       Pre-electronic variants include fake entries in encyclopedias and dictionaries (so-called "Mountweazels"), and, as Jinbish mentions, fake entries on maps. (Those persist into today's GPS maps.) But those are pure additions, not mutations.
jutta, Jul 23 2007

       This is exactly the same technique that Jack Ryan (from the books) was supposed to have invented that got him so famous within CIA.   

       Change one word here or there on sensitive documents, and if a copy is leaked, you know exactly who the leaker is.   

       The main difference here is that this is a digital technique.
shapu, Jul 24 2007


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