Three professors from Osaka University, Japan, has perfected a method of pin-pointing the position of a recording device by way of using an audio watermark embedded into a soundtrack.
Professors Yuta Nakashima, Ryuki Tachibana and Noboru Babaguchi had first presented their findings at the Third International Conference on Intelligent Information Hiding and Multimedia Signal Processing (PDF Link) in November 2007; however, they have since perfected their technology and has submitted an article for peer review this past February.
The technology involves embedding an audio signature into a film's soundtrack, which can then be used to locate the relative position of the recording device within a 0.44m accuracy. This technology is ready for deployment and according to the researchers, their results from "the MUSHRA subjective listening tests show the method does not significantly spoil the subjective acoustic quality of the soundtrack." For this detection method to be successful, the theaters and operators must keep a detailed database so as to compare recording signatures to logged patrons.
There are obviously questions of privacy and the security of personal information if the movie theater is to compile a database of its movie-goers. However, this may be the most physically unobtrusive form of digital protection to have surfaced in recent memory. The Motion Pictures Theaters Associations of Canada already offers reward bonuses of up to $500 CAD for the identification of a person using a recording device and their subsequent arrest. According to TorrentFreak, this has already caused over zealous employees to have viewers arrested for recording only a few seconds of a movie.
Whether or not this technology is implemented remains the decision of movie studios and associations. There were no costs of deployment or licensing estimated in the provided articles or talks but it will not be a surprise if the costs are reflected on to consumers and ticket prices. According to estimated numbers, The Dark Knight had been downloaded more than seven million times over bittorrent in 2008, making it the most pirated movie of 2008. While night vision goggles were used in the apprehension of a Kansas City man for recording The Dark Knight in July 2008.