Study: Digital watermarking market growing

Sales for technology for inserting digital watermarks and fingerprints into media files will quadruple by 2012, a new study finds.

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From 2007 to 2012, the market should more than quadruple for technology called watermarks or fingerprints that can endow photos, video, and audio with unobtrusive digital identifiers, according to a new study.

Digital watermarks modify a digital file slightly so that specific information can be embedded, but the techniques are subtle so people don't notice the change when viewing or listening to the media file. The technology is a less-obtrusive cousin to digital rights management (DRM), which at least in theory encrypts files so they can't be used except by those with authorization.

The market for watermarking technology should grow from about $131 million in 2007 to $171 million this year and $588 million in 2012, MultiMedia Intelligence said in a study released Tuesday.

Among the reasons for the growth, according to study author Mark Kirstein, is that companies are trying to monitor the spread of copyrighted files shared over networks or social-networking sites. "Fox has already communicated that they will mandate watermarking for early-release high-definition content," Kirstein said.

In addition, watermarking could become more popular as online music distributors such as Amazon or Apple's iTunes move away from DRM restrictions, the report said.