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Why a multi-DRM approach fail to identify the pirate and how forensic watermarking fills this gap

Digital rights management (DRM) solutions are necessary to maintain safe delivery of content to the user’s player and ensure only verified browsers and players can access premium content. DRM technology also involves the usage of codes to prevent stealing of content or restrict the number and type of devices that can access it. However, once the content reaches the user device, DRM technology can do little to prevent piracy and illegal distribution or identify the source of leakage.

In order to secure DRM protected content outside the legitimate service networks, the original video itself needs to be identified. In other words, the last point of legitimate content access needs to be traced to identify the infringing users or commercial pirates. This is where forensic video watermarking comes into play. Watermarking embeds the identification information (for example, device IP address, subscriber details, session details, etc.) in the video itself. The watermark can be embedded into the video at the point of origin, the CDN (content distribution network) during distribution, or within the client device.

With the help of watermarks, content ownership can be verified and the source of piracy be easily identified by extracting the watermark payload using a specialist cloud-based service, which can work effectively even on low-grade and recompressed videos. Based on the approach, watermarking solutions can be broadly categorized into client-side watermarking, A/B or manifest-level watermarking, and bitstream-based watermarking.

An efficient video watermarking service must be able to deter piracy, detect the piracy outlets, and take necessary action to disable the source of leakage. Detection of piracy can be done by constantly monitoring the suspicious sources of piracy and comparing the digital fingerprint of a suspicious content file with the reference fingerprint generated during production. The watermarking software can then detect the watermark and extract the information embedded in it. A robust watermark should also be able to survive attempts of modifying or disabling it (resizing attempts, collusion attacks, etc.) and remain readable even after the content has been transformed. In addition, once the source of the pirated stream is determined, necessary actions can be taken either by interrupting the subscriber session, disabling the account or even taking legal help.

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