While everyone with their heads not buried in sand are smitten by the crazy bunch of pirates in the latest Disney fantasy “Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s end” – there is rampant piracy doing rounds on the world wide web. Recently Viacom slapped a $1 Billion lawsuit on Google Inc. for hosting what Viacom claimed to be illegal copies of copyrighted material. Google denied any such thing of course…but such things will continue to happen – unless someone can actually figure out “Video Fingerprinting”.

A video fingerprint is like a unique “code” that is derived from a particular video sequence – for example the Pirates trailer will have a certain code which will be unique to it – and different from the code of say the Pirates movie. So all the Piracy watchdogs have to do is crawl the web – search for videos and do fingerprint matches with a database of copyrighted material. This will enable them to sniff out illegal stuff like a DEA alsatian. Dutch electronics giant Philips already has something like this…and is being used by content companies to crack down on Piracy. But Piracy is like water. It will find a way to get through…no matter now infinitesimal the way is. And in this case it is just a matter of changing the video sequence a little bit – like pasting other video clips in the middle or doing away with the credits or something like that. This will render the video-fingerprinting ineffective.

Duh-uh! Some other company has come out with a solution which will just profile the audio track of the movie. They claim that as the amount of data in the audio track is less – more complex calculations can be done on it – and minor changes in the Audio will not be able to disguise the fingerprint. All the pirates have to do is seperate the Video and the Audio tracks (quite easy – can be done at home) and post them seperately! One has to download them, multiplex and watch.

And the biggest loophole is that, all fingerprinting techniques are meant for public domain web sites only. What about File sharing – the leading method for piracy?

Bottomline – content creation companies can do what they want to… Piracy has become a part of their and our lives. Their only hope is that people appreciate the pleasure of going to cinemas or get the thrill of creating a DVD collection at home. And that I think is still not dead – and will not be for sometime.