Why Hollywood studios love forensic watermarking tech

Access to fast internet and smart devices have expanded the video content industry in a big way, which explains the success of over-the-top (OTT) portals, like Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, this has also increased their headache due to video piracy. OTT platforms have traditionally utilized digital rights management (DRM) technologies to keep premium video content from being pirated. This is an advanced technology, which largely depends on always-on internet devices, and enables OTT service providers to manage their users, apply AES encryption to their video assets, and break video files into shorter content blocks to avoid piracy.

However, the piracy ecosystem has evolved over time and become more sophisticated, and some premium HD content is still leaked for unauthorized users to exploit, despite best attempts.

Pirates take advantage of an OTT system in which DRM protected content is transmitted using digital-analog duality, particularly at the client end, where each piece of video content must be decrypted and delivered as an analogue signal for viewing. Pirates use sophisticated programs to intrude at this point and attempt to grab the continuous video stream from the OTT server.

Hollywood studios are concerned about this leakage because they stand to lose big money in revenue from their premium content. The content production and DRM industries have attempted to close this gap by adding video watermarking to its arsenal of security tools. This is a more advanced function that embeds non-obtrusive text or codes in video frames that aren’t apparent to the human eye or easily identifiable by recording software, and, in this sense, stands at variance with visible watermarks that can spoil the user experience.

There are largely four parts to forensic watermarking technology: (a) copyright or ownership data which is encoded in (b) the host signal or video frame – a video file is a collection of static video frames – which is used in conjunction with (c) a secret watermarking key to create (d) a watermarked video frame. Even if the combinations of frames from the original video file undergo resolution, transcoding, copying, or distributive changes, the copyright message should stand strong during the whole life-cycle of the video frame in a comprehensive forensic watermarking architecture. Otherwise, the watermark cannot be called robust.

Hollywood studios expect OTT platforms to add not only multi-DRM measures to combat piracy, but also a powerful forensic-watermarking option so that their anti-piracy teams can readily discover how and from which users their premium content is pirated. OTT platforms find both services in multi-DRM SaaS vendors which also maintain a database of embedded watermarks.