Technology to Secure Content: Continued Opportunities

by Glenn Hower | Dec. 28, 2015

Technology for securing content and preventing piracy falls into two categories: technologies that identify and allow tracking of content and technologies that restrict access to content. Digital fingerprinting, watermarking, conditional access, and digital rights management are all solutions to help secure content.

Digital fingerprinting and watermarking technologies play a significant role in identifying copyrighted content that is being distributed or accessed illegally and tracking the original perpetrator of redistribution.

Digital fingerprinting identifies content by tracking areas within the video itself that exhibit certain characteristics. An advantage of fingerprinting technology is that the process does not add to the size of the video file. While effective at identifying distribution patterns of pirated content, fingerprinting does little to trace the source of pirated content. 

Digital watermarking allows tracking of content in a way that that fingerprinting alone cannot achieve. Once a pirated asset is identified, security solutions providers can use watermarking to trace the source of the content leak by embedding a unique identifier within the video asset. Unlike fingerprinting, watermarking inserts new information into the video data file. No matter where the insertion occurs, forensic watermarking allows content owners and security providers to trace content to a specific end user, evidence that comes in handy in the event of legal action.

Conditional access (CA) began as a means to scramble and encrypt programming for cable providers. It remains the primary method of protecting content through a managed network. As services moved to digital offerings, allowing two-way communication, and providers began implementing cardless CA systems. Cardless solutions handle unmanaged devices with greater ease, providing a more consistent user experience. They also provide users with the ability to transfer managed video to IP for delivery to devices on the home network. The disadvantage of a cardless solution, however, is that large-scale updates may require a new set-top box rather than simply a new card.

While conditional access restricts access to authorized persons or devices through managed devices (e.g., set-top box), DRM serves to restrict reproduction and sharing of digital works for unauthorized use over unmanaged devices. DRM systems define who can access a digital asset, which platforms an authorized user can use to access the asset, what copying (if any) rights the authorized user is allowed, and, if necessary, when the asset provider can revoke the user’s license to access the asset.

Following and securing content access is an ongoing challenge, especially as video goes IP. Oftentimes, by concealing the access point through fairly conventional means, users may access content that has been geographically restricted. 7.6% of Canadian households, 8.4% of German households, 8.6% of Spanish households, and 9.1% of British households admit to using a VPN to watch out-of-market video. This issue is less common in the United States, as only 2% of U.S. broadband households admit to the same activity.

Service providers that support video and media access will continue to seek comprehensive solutions to protect their business operations and content. Solutions providers will experience a growing portion of their client base calling for active approaches to stamping out piracy through monitoring, intelligence, and control.

For more information on digital content protection and the rise of digital piracy, see my industry report The Cost of Piracy.

Further Reading:

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