Content protection and DRM: safeguarding content from piracy and unauthorized access
Content protection and Digital Rights Management (DRM) are crucial aspects of the video streaming industry. Content owners invest significant resources into creating high-quality video content, and it is essential to ensure that this content is not pirated or accessed by unauthorized users.
What is DRM?
DRM technologies are designed to prevent unauthorized access to video content by encrypting it and ensuring that it can only be accessed by authorized users. Content owners use DRM technologies to control access to their content, limit how it can be used, and prevent it from being copied or distributed without permission.
Here are some of the key aspects of content protection and DRM:
- Encryption: One of the primary methods used for content protection is encryption. Video encryption is a process of conversion of video into a non-video secure format. So, viewers cannot directly access the raw file. A standard video encryption technology, like HLS E, RTMP E, and AES 128, has critical exchange mechanisms that are very prone to hacking and downloading.
- Digital Rights Management: DRM technologies are designed to prevent unauthorized access to video content by encrypting it and ensuring that it can only be accessed by authorized users. DRM technologies can also control how content is used, such as how many times it can be viewed or whether it can be downloaded.
- Tokenization: Another method used for content protection is tokenization. This involves creating a unique token for each authorized user. The token is used to decrypt the video content, and it expires after a set period. This ensures that the video content can only be accessed by authorized users.
- Watermarking: Watermarking is a method of content protection that involves adding a unique identifier to the video content. The identifier can be used to identify the source of the content and to prevent it from being copied or distributed without permission.
- Geo-blocking: Geo-blocking is a method of content protection that involves restricting access to video content based on the user’s location. This is often used to comply with local content regulations and to prevent piracy.
Encryption ensures that the video content is protected from unauthorized access during transmission and when it is stored. DRM protects the encryption key by preventing easy access to a hacking software. It plays a dual role in encrypting the video and protecting the video encryption key. There are many commercial DRM systems available in the market, and at least the professional DRM works with AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) as the encryption technique.
There are various types of watermarking techniques available, and two of the most popular ones are:
1. Embedding an imperceptible code in the stream by the server side. This approach is designed in such a way that the code cannot be removed by any image processing or re-encoding techniques.
2. Client-side watermarking is when the client applies a watermark (usually invisible) onto the video stream and then plays it back. This method is typically used in combination with additional technology to protect the application that applies the watermark and its associated keys/secrets.
3. Session-based or A/B watermarking is another technique. This involves serving a unique stream to every subscriber, where each video streaming session is unique as it delivers a different version of the video segments to each subscriber, creating a fingerprint. ]
Two sets of each asset are created (called A & B), that are identical to the human eye, but different in reality. The delivery of the chunks is based on a predetermined pattern depending on the subscriber ID. For example, ABAABBAAA … thus, every subscriber receives a slightly different version of the movie. Although visually the movie is the same, a dedicated piece of software can discern the pattern easily.
In the event of a movie leak, forensic investigators can examine the pattern of the segments and determine which subscriber ID was used to leak the movie.
Getting DRM Protection
Let’s talk about the steps involved in obtaining and applying DRM technologies for video content protection :
Step 1: Choose a DRM Provider
The first step in implementing DRM is to choose a DRM provider. There are several DRM providers available in the market, such as Microsoft PlayReady, Google Widevine, and Apple FairPlay. Each DRM provider has its unique features and strengths, and it is essential to choose a provider that meets your specific needs.
Step 2: Obtain DRM Licenses
Once you have chosen a DRM provider, you will need to obtain DRM licenses to use their technology. DRM licenses typically involve a one-time fee or a recurring subscription fee. DRM licenses will provide you with the necessary keys and certificates to encrypt and decrypt your video content.
Step 3: Encrypt Your Video Content
After obtaining DRM licenses, the next step is to encrypt your video content. Encryption involves converting your video content into a format that can only be accessed by authorized users. Encryption typically involves using AES encryption, which is a widely used encryption standard. Most DRM providers offer software development kits (SDKs) or APIs to make the encryption process more straightforward.
Step 4: Apply DRM Protection
The final step is to apply DRM protection to your video content. This involves adding a DRM layer to your video content that controls how it can be accessed and used. The DRM layer typically includes information about the authorized user and the conditions for accessing the content. DRM protection can be applied using a content delivery network (CDN) or a DRM service provider.
DRM Protection Providers
There are several DRM providers available in the market, each offering unique features and strengths. So let’ discuss some of the top DRM providers and the options they offer.
1. Microsoft PlayReady is one of the most popular DRM providers, widely used in the entertainment industry. It offers a wide range of options for content protection, including encryption, watermarking, and license delivery. PlayReady supports a wide range of devices and platforms, including Windows, iOS, Android, and Xbox.
2. Google Widevine is another popular DRM provider, widely used in the streaming industry. Widevine offers robust protection for video content, including encryption, watermarking, and license delivery. It supports a wide range of devices and platforms, including Android, iOS, and Chrome.
3. Apple FairPlay is a DRM provider designed specifically for iOS devices. It offers a wide range of options for content protection, including encryption, watermarking, and license delivery. FairPlay supports a wide range of devices and platforms, including iOS devices and Safari browsers.
4. ExpressPlay is a cloud-based DRM provider that offers a wide range of options for content protection, including encryption, watermarking, and license delivery. It supports a wide range of devices and platforms, including iOS, Android, and web browsers.
To obtain ExpressPlay, you need to sign up for the ExpressPlay website. Once you have signed up, you can access the ExpressPlay documentation and start using the technology.
Content owners must protect their valuable video content from piracy and unauthorized access. Encryption, DRM technologies, tokenization, watermarking, and geo-blocking are some of the key methods used for content protection. It is essential for broadcasting engineers and video streaming platforms to have a deep understanding of content protection and DRM technologies to ensure that video content remains secure and protected from unauthorized access.