NEC Japan has fired the latest salvo in war between pirates and video producers with the announcement of new identification technology capable of detecting copies of videos illegally uploaded to the Internet in a matter of seconds. According to NEC the technology achieved an average detection rate of 96 percent at a very low false alarm rate of 5ppm (5 in one million). It is also capable of detecting altered video content, such as caption overlays, camera captured copies and analog copies.

The problem of video content copyright infringement has conventionally been addressed by manual inspection. The ever-growing quantity of pirated movies and TV programs hitting the Internet makes such labor-intensive methods impractical. Proposed solutions have included digital watermarks and using image retrieval technology. However, it was prohibitively difficult to accurately inspect large databases, short content or video produced through various editing operations.

NEC’s new technology gets around such limitations by sniffing out video copies and generating a fingerprint, or video signature, of suspect content to compare to the signatures of original content. These video signatures are generated from each frame based on differences in the luminance between sets of sub-regions on a frame that are defined by a variety of locations, sizes and shapes. In this way the technology is able to accurately detect video content that was created with such editing operations as analog capturing, re-encoding and caption overlay – things that have previously been hard to detect.

The video signature files are also small in size at just 76 bytes per frame. This means that the storage space required for the matching process is small enough that a home PC (tests were carried out using a single core CPU with 3GHz clock speed) can match approximately 1,000 hours of video in one second.

The technology is also capable of detecting video scenes as short as two seconds (60 frames), which was formerly impossible when using conventional methods.

NEC Japan's new technology has been approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as the international standard for video identification as part of the MPEG-7 Video standard. Content producers will be hoping this is a case of game, set and match, in the fight against piracy, but odds are it’s just a matter of time before the pirates find a way around this latest attempt to stamp them out.