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Digital watermarking

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Digital watermarking refers to a process used to embed hidden information, often for the purpose of verification or protection, within a digital signal. The term was first coined by Andrew Tirkel and Charles Osborne in 1992, with the first successful implementation following a year later. This practice has deep roots, tracing back to 13th-century Italy where it was used to identify paper makers. In the digital age, it has found application in copyright[2] protection, fraud detection, broadcast monitoring, and more. Different types of watermarks have been developed based on their visibility and durability. The process of digital watermarking involves embedding, attacking, and detection phases. Despite its benefits, such as intellectual property[1] protection and enhancing fire[5] recognition, it also poses challenges like robustness, security[4], and computational complexity. Evaluating and choosing the best watermarking algorithm[3] requires a balance of these factors.

Terms definitions
1. intellectual property. Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. These intangible assets have intrinsic value and are protected by law through patents, copyrights, and trademarks. The concept of intellectual property originated as early as the 15th century, with the Venetian Patent Statute of 1474 being the earliest codified patent system. The idea is to stimulate innovation and progress by giving creators the right to control and profit from their creations. This promotes creativity, fair trading, and economic growth. However, intellectual property laws also need to balance these rights with the wider public interest, ensuring that knowledge and technologies remain widely accessible. Intellectual property rights violations, such as patent, copyright, and trademark infringement, as well as trade secret theft, can have severe consequences.
2. copyright. Copyright is a legal term that provides the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, typically for a limited period of time. This concept originated in England, with the passage of the Licensing of the Press Act in 1662 and the Statute of Anne in 1710. Over the centuries, copyright laws have evolved significantly, with international treaties and conventions such as the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention standardizing these rights globally. Copyright applies to a wide variety of creative expressions including literary works, music, films, choreography, paintings, software, broadcasts, and designs. It is important to note that copyright protection requires a minimal level of originality and typically expires after a set period of time.

A digital watermark is a kind of marker covertly embedded in a noise-tolerant signal such as audio, video or image data. It is typically used to identify ownership of the copyright of such signal. "Watermarking" is the process of hiding digital information in a carrier signal; the hidden information should, but does not need to, contain a relation to the carrier signal. Digital watermarks may be used to verify the authenticity or integrity of the carrier signal or to show the identity of its owners. It is prominently used for tracing copyright infringements and for banknote authentication.

Like traditional physical watermarks, digital watermarks are often only perceptible under certain conditions, e.g. after using some algorithm. If a digital watermark distorts the carrier signal in a way that it becomes easily perceivable, it may be considered less effective depending on its purpose. Traditional watermarks may be applied to visible media (like images or video), whereas in digital watermarking, the signal may be audio, pictures, video, texts or 3D models. A signal may carry several different watermarks at the same time. Unlike metadata that is added to the carrier signal, a digital watermark does not change the size of the carrier signal.

The needed properties of a digital watermark depend on the use case in which it is applied. For marking media files with copyright information, a digital watermark has to be rather robust against modifications that can be applied to the carrier signal. Instead, if integrity has to be ensured, a fragile watermark would be applied.

Both steganography and digital watermarking employ steganographic techniques to embed data covertly in noisy signals. While steganography aims for imperceptibility to human senses, digital watermarking tries to control the robustness as top priority.

Since a digital copy of data is the same as the original, digital watermarking is a passive protection tool. It just marks data, but does not degrade it or control access to the data.

One application of digital watermarking is source tracking. A watermark is embedded into a digital signal at each point of distribution. If a copy of the work is found later, then the watermark may be retrieved from the copy and the source of the distribution is known. This technique reportedly has been used to detect the source of illegally copied movies.

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