Further big brother type surveillance or a positive step for digital rights holders?? Eitherway it's already started....
Digital watermark rolls out
June 20, 2006 SMH- Next

Every step you take. Every game you play. Every ad you watch. Every video you download . . . they'll be watching you.

Marketers and the anti-piracy brigade are salivating over the potential of a new worldwide standard for tagging audio-visual content.

Launched in Australia last week, ISAN (International Standard Audiovisual Number) - the equivalent to the book world's ISBN - applies to TV, feature films, advertisements and computer games. The 92-bit ISAN identifies content and links to a central database in Geneva containing metadata such as title, author, language, full credits, duration and classification.

It will be used on packaging and inserted into advertisements using tags or digital watermarks.

ISAN international chief executive Patrick Attallah says the new standard - a not-for-profit system designed by industry consensus - will help build applications that track the spread and use of audio-visual content across the world.

Along with metering and customer profiling applications, it could also form a platform for new types of interactivity. Computer game producers plan to use the number to track the use of their games over the internet. ISAN will also allow them to see which versions of their software are running.

Advertisers may also use the system to track how often their in-game spots are viewed.

ISAN tracking will be built into the media player in Windows Vista, the new operating system that Microsoft plans to release next year. Mr Attallah says the player will cross-reference the metadata of audiovisual files - for instance allowing computer owners to prevent their children watching mature-rated videos.

The ISAN is already being incorporated in a video watermark used by British broadcasters, who want to monitor the use of their satellite uploads around the world.

The first challenge is to create ISANs for the millions of existing audiovisual items, and the 6 million created every year.

Mr Attallah says that after two years of work, 400,000 ISANs have been allocated, 200,000 in the US. Archivists are encouraged to create ISANs as they digitise the history of video and film.

All major studios in Hollywood and most in Europe have agreed to create an ISAN for every new feature film or TV episode they create.

In Australia, the Film Finance Corporation has agreed that every film it finances will have an ISAN. TV networks and independent producers are being "positive and receptive", Mr Attallah says.

Broadcasters want to know more about the return on investment of the scheme. ISANs for new content cost $26 each, though there are discounts for quantity or for old material.