An American researcher and fellow at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Harvard University, Ethan Zuckerman has suggested to an assembly of ICT professionals and film makers in Lagos that digital watermarks written into their films and other digital media materials may be the final solution to kicking piracy out of the country.

Ethan who was speaking at an event organised by the Digital Film Institute to enlighten Nigerian film makers on current ICT issues evolving around the world as it affects the film making business explained that a digital watermark is a copyright protection system written onto film materials to prevent or deter unauthorized copying.

This way, a potential pirate is stuck when his copy device automatically retrieves the watermark from the film material just as it’s about to begin copying.

Another application is in source tracing. Ethan explained that 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 can be retrieved from the copy and the source of the distribution is known. This technique has been reportedly used to detect the source of illegally copied film materials.

Zuckerman who has for years been doing comparative studies on tools for censorship circumvention strongly suggested to the film makers to quickly learn the technology and hopefully end this piracy war in the country once and for all. However, he had his fears.

According to him, he knows only very little about the nation’s film industry and it’s market environment and so was skeptical on the success of this technology. Ethan said rather disappointingly that there had been several times in the past reported cases abroad where pirates had somehow broken clean through walls of watermarks and made away with digitally copied materials.

Ethan who has been given the Technology in the Service of Humanity Award in 2002 and named a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 2003 said that except digital media pirates in the country were gurus in software hacking, this technology may finally be the long awaited messiah of Nigerian film makers.