What is Forensic Watermarking? Everything You Need to Know

by Intrasonics Team

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Piracy and the illegal use and distribution of content is a massive threat to the creators, owners and distributors of original content.

For a snapshot understanding of the issue, you only need to consider that during 2017, illegal internet piracy sites were receiving a total of 300 billion visits.

Interestingly, though it may not be too surprising, that is about ten times the amount of visitors Spotify receives.

The music industry and online streaming is just one area where piracy is a huge problem. When illegal sites are stealing away that volume of users, it is a very serious problem.

One that affects everyone from the original content creators to the providers and distributors, as everyone in the chain effectively loses money.

Forensic watermarking is one of the most comprehensive and effective forms of protection against piracy and the illegal use, download and distribution of digital content in all its forms.

What is forensic watermarking, and who can benefit from it? That’s what we’re going to discuss in the following post.

What is Forensic Watermarking?

Forensic watermarking is the process of embedding an imperceptible marking into a piece of content.

Content creators can use this watermark in audio, video, image, and digital files.

The marking itself consists of unique identifiers that provide metadata that refers to the content, including anything from the authors or contributors, the genre, album, title etc.

One of the challenges when designing these watermarks is to stop them from being compromised deliberately or accidentally. We will discuss that in greater detail later in this post.

Why Use Forensic Watermarking?

Piracy and the illegal use and distribution of audio and video files is a huge problem.

Individuals and companies should consider using forensic watermarking is used for several key reasons.

Primarily it is used to protect the interests and rights of content creators against the illegal use and distribution of copyrighted digital work.

Although forensic watermarking can’t stop this kind of activity completely, it can make it a little easier for copyright holders to monitor and track the illegal use of their digital work and find the people involved in it.

On the other side of things, forensic watermarking can also help inform individuals that unwittingly received an illegal copy of a piece of content. In a global study by Irdeto, it was found that 41% of people worldwide weren’t even aware that what they were doing was illegal!

Forensic watermarking can be used as a preventative and reactive anti-piracy measure, meaning it can often not only stop piracy from happening but also detects and responds appropriately when it does.

It isn’t just piracy and protecting content where forensic watermarking excels either. It is also incredibly useful for monitoring and measuring the popularity of content online or other distribution channels.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you monitor the success of your content while protecting it from illegal use, download and distribution, contact Intrasonics today here or call us on +44 (0)1223 927 070.

Who Can Benefit From Forensic Watermarking?

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The individuals and organisations that will benefit most from forensic watermarking are content creators and copyright owners.

Anyone who produces content or owns the rights to content can benefit from forensic watermarking in audio, video, image or another form of a digital file. It is advantageous in the fight against piracy.

What Are The Different Techniques Available for Forensic Watermarking?

  • Audio - for audio files, forensic watermarking involves placing a digital watermark or signal of some kind at a specific point or several different points in the file.
  • Video - for video, forensic watermarking the process with video files is much the same and involves placing a signal at a specific part of the video.
  • Image - this is the area of watermarking that many people will be most familiar with, as images and physical documents were the first things ever to be watermarked. Similarly to an actual physical image, the process involves placing a watermark on an image file, usually in a way that does not distract from the enjoyment or use but providers a marker.
  • Digital - it is more or less the same process for creating a forensic watermark for a digital file like a PDF or text-based document, as is used for a physical document. The watermark can be placed at different points on all document pages to ensure it is fully protected and easy to track whenever anyone tries to access it illegally.

We also have a detailed guide on the different techniques to prevent audio and video piracy

How Does Intrasonics Forensic Watermarking Work?

The process of forensic watermarking at Intrasonics involves placing additional sounds onto audio or video files that need to be encoded.

Once the watermarks are in place, Intrasonics then monitors legal and illegal streaming, P2P and social media sites on your behalf.

Although the users of these illegally bought services or downloaded files are unable to detect our watermarks, we use our proprietary software designed to detect them.

Suitable forensic watermarking needs to be robust against attacks, whether intentional or accidental and incidental.

For example, during distribution and redistribution, content is often changed in terms of format and form.

The best example of this is transcoding, which involves the format of a file changing to make it better for the following stage in distribution.

Often metadata in its traditional form will be lost during this process, but the markers created during forensic watermarking by Intrasonics, are not.


Ultimately, as things are constantly evolving and changing in the digital landscape, the redistribution of any form of media, specifically audio and video, is an unpredictability that all content owners have to manage.

Fortunately, with the help of Intrasonics, if you are a content creator, the owner of the rights or a distributor of content on behalf of others, you do not need to worry as much about the methods, measures and techniques involved in piracy as we have a robust system to combat it.

We can provide your content with robust and difficult-to-remove forensic watermarking that we can then use to prevent and even shut down piracy.

As well as the content itself, we can also monitor the context of the usage and popularity of your content.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you monitor the success of your content while protecting it from illegal use, download and distribution, contact Intrasonics today here or call us on +44 (0)1223 927 070.

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