Fingerprinting – More than Just Piracy Detection

Last week’s decision by a German court that YouTube must pay compensation for user-uploaded content that violated copyright reinforces the importance that web site owners have rights to the content on their web site. This decision also points to the need to detect what content users are uploading; it is not enough to trust the word of the person who is uploading the content, at least in Germany.

At the Set-Top Box 2010 conference, David Price, Vice President of Business Development for Harmonic, Inc., explained how YouTube integrated technology into Harmonic’s encoders to create audio and video fingerprints of legitimate content. YouTube then compares the fingerprint from the legitimate copy to user-uploaded files. If they match, then YouTube rejects the pirated upload. To date, fingerprinting has mostly been about fighting piracy.

At least one company, Zeitera, LLC, believes that fingerprinting technologies have revenue-generating potential for content owners and should not be used solely for detecting revenue leakage. Speaking to attendees at the Set-Top 2010 conference, Dan Eakins, CEO of Zeitera, explained how fingerprinting at the consumer electronic device level could open up new ways to provide interactive applications, targeted advertising, social networking and audience measurement.

The benefit to this approach is that the technology does the work, requiring minimal customer intervention. Obviously, some applications would require customer opt-in (e.g. a service that automatically updates a viewer's Twitter or Facebook account telling the world or his friends what he is watching). Other applications, like an, audience measurement tool configured for anonymous data) would be invisible to the viewer and would provide advertisers and content owners with better data as to the performance of their respective content.  At the conference, Zeitera demonstrated a targeted ad solution that delivered a coupon to a mobile phone, based on what was being played on the television (see image below for the block diagram of this cloud-based, ad serving concept).

Zeitera’s approach is to license their patented technology to existing businesses in the television ecosystem. Key to their success will be integrating their software stack at the chip level into consumer electronic devices, such as set-tops, televisions, digital video recorders and game consoles. Drivers for getting it into these devices will be the service providers, content owners and advertisers. Judging from the audience questions at Set-Top 2010, Zeitera has definitely captured the interest of these critical parties and have shown that fingerprinting is for more than piracy detection. 

Example of a cloud-based ad serving model using fingerprinting

Image courtesy of Zeitera, LLC

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