M&E Journal: Implementation Challenges, Opportunities in Forensic Watermarking

Challenges and Opportunities in Forensic Watermarking

Rajan Samtani, Graham Oakes — Media Science International

Digital content capture and distribution technologies have evolved at a rapid pace as evidenced by the recent push by CE manufacturers, OTT distributors and content owners to move from HD to 4K/UHD and HDR. Content creators and distributors use these new technologies to produce and distribute increasingly compelling and valuable content for consumers at much higher resolution and fidelity, i.e. more, as well as better, pixels.

Amid these improvements in the quality of the viewing experience, the business models in both movie and TV distribution are also under pressure to shrink the available “windows” of distribution as we make the transition from closed, managed service models for licensed content to open, over-the-top models, as well as internet and mobile distribution.

Unfortunately, digital content distributed at very high fidelity within shrinking windows and viewed on highly capable display devices creates an ideal environment for content pirates, who can quickly create very high quality copies using simple techniques that take advantage of the analog hole (i.e. using a camcorder to record content off a display device, or readily available digital-to-analog signal multiplexing techniques), thus greatly increasing the risk of unlawful reproduction and redistribution.

Based on video piracy statistics for SD and HD content available from multiple sources, it is clear that the threat of piracy from BitTorrent, on-demand cyberlockers, streaming sites and dedicated IPTV-oriented pirate services remains rampant and will only increase when content is widely available in UHD.

In anticipation of this threatening “perfect storm,” MovieLabs in April of 2014 published a new set of Enhanced Content Protection (ECP) guidelines–defining requirements and best practices to ensure the viability of these technical and creative advances through the addition of more stringent policies related to content protection methods required by licensees and distributors. These included hardened security in hardware and trusted software along with the use of forensic watermarking.

One of the major requirements in the MovieLabs ECP guidelines pertains to the use of “session-based” forensic watermarking to identify individual user information, and identify compromised devices that can be revoked and renewed, as required. The idea behind this requirement is that forensic watermarking technology is the only proven method robust enough to survive digital-toanalog transformations in order to trace the origin of an illegally redistributed stream or file back to the individual device from which it was captured.

However, the ECP guidelines do not go into any details about the specific requirements for the proper implementation of a forensic watermarking system. Industry players are working on defining and testing these requirements.

In addition to the requirements for the particular watermarking technology to be robust and imperceptible and to support UHD features for higher resolution, pixel depth, dynamic range and wider color gamut, building out the operational ecosystem and related policies for forensic watermarking that can lead to measurable piracy mitigation outcomes is a major challenge for all stakeholders. Several factors contribute to the challenge.

Complex ecosystem

In any watermarking implementation, several different companies in the value chain must interact and cooperate. There are entities that directly benefit from embedding, tracking and tracing the forensic information and that mandate its use in the ecosystem; others that have to implement the embedding and detection technology, and yet others that provide required anti-piracy remediation services.

Below is a synopsis of the required roles for various types of watermarking applications. Depending on the application, in some cases a single entity can play more than one role. Here are the roles and a simple definition attached to each role.

Mandator: This is the entity, usually the content owner, which issues the requirement to use watermarking and provides the “approvals” for required levels of robustness and perceptibility for a given technology.

Service provider: This is usually the distribution company that is contractually required to implement the watermarking system through integration with its suppliers of core watermark technology, middleware and infrastructure. In the case of pay-TV, this would be the MVPD.

Implementer: This is usually the entity that actually provides the watermark embedding technology or service. Often it is a middleware provider such as a conditional access system or digital rights management provider.

Dependent middleware: This is usually the entity that needs to interact with the watermarking technology during the embedding process, for example, an encoding or transcoding vendor.

Device manufacturer: An end-point device that must either react to an embedded watermark or at least “do no harm” to the watermark; for example, a set-top manufacturer or a SoC supplier.

Content delivery network: Usually a company that provides the delivery infrastructure. Monitoring service provider: This is the entity that supplies the crawling/monitoring function, and in some cases, the actual detector functionality to find the forensically watermarked files outside the authorized distribution domain.

Core technology supplier: This is the entity that supplies the core technology/ algorithms and basic functionality to implement the watermark embedder and detector.

The best way to think of these ecosystem interactions is to recognize that the “pressure” to implement watermarking originates with the mandator and subsequent business and technical responsibilities flow down to the other entities. The relationships and the obligations among the various parties are generally governed by the strictures of complex licensing agreements – and in some cases, augmented by industry groups that can guide some harmonization of best practices – which enumerate the requirements and responsibilities of the other players in the ecosystem.

Inconsistent policies

There is no “one-size-fits-all” watermarking solution that meets the needs of distributors and content providers for both VOD and live content (in broadcast as well as OTT distribution), because of where and how the embedding workflows need to be performed, such as server side/head-end, client-side/STB or player device, in the CDN etc.

In order for these systems to work, the following sets of collaborative principles need to be agreed and orchestrated within the ecosystem:

• With content available from a multitude of legal distribution sources, effective use of watermarking requires support and collaboration from many parts of the ecosystem, from chipsets to STB to MVPD to networks and core technology suppliers as well as monitoring providers. Therefore, content owner requirements for robustness and imperceptibility need to be conform to real world requirements.

• Due to the global nature of content piracy, piracy monitoring systems need to become more efficient and collaborative in order to create effective and sustainable enforcement strategies, instead of just relying on current DMCA whack-a-mole tactics.

• There are no standards in place for true session-based forensic tracking systems (aside from those used in digital cinema) and therefore enforcement efforts are impeded by the fact that pirated content can originate from multiple sources distributed by different operators, which may use multiple watermarking providers and keys. As a result, monitoring providers do not know which watermark may be in the pirated copy and therefore which detector to use, thereby making tracking across multiple operator environments hard to scale. There are some efforts underway to solve the business and technical challenges to with business processes and best practices, which can streamline the use of detection technologies at scale.

• Many jurisdictions have completely different privacy regimes which may hamper the development of harmonized policies to deter or delay the deployment of forensic watermarking on a global scale. Content owners need to deploy resources to educate and convince policy makers in different jurisdictions of the harm caused by inconsistency in piracy enforcement methods.

Misaligned incentives

In addition, watermarking imposes a relatively high cost burden on content distributors and multiplatform operators. The incentives to implement watermarking and pay for watermarking are misaligned between the parties that receive the direct benefits of watermarking (rights owners vs. distributors) and there is no consensus on whether and how the cost burdens could be shared by the various players in the ecosystem.

This issue is further exacerbated by the fact that, these days, piracy itself has become more of an OTT phenomenon, and a global one, at that. A pirate site providing access to current content is available instantly all across the world. Therefore, a single leak of content could be available everywhere. As a result, it is difficult for an operator to justify capital investment in implementing watermarking within its own footprint, unless they are assured that rights owners are requiring all operators to implement similarly stringent policies. It is important for content owners to be consistent in their contractual arrangements in different regions.

None of these concerns are addressed in the MovieLabs’ document. But if forensic watermarking is to scale and succeed in a true B2C context, with sustainable and supportable implementations that provide measurable ROI for distributors and make a dent in the losses due to piracy, there will need to be some level of collaboration, coordination, consistency and sharing of investment risk by the various entities in the ecosystem. If the industry can achieve this, we will definitely see a reduction in unauthorized, un-monetized redistribution of premium content.

Rajan Samtani from the DWA to Speak at #CPS2016 December 7th 2016 | Anti-Piracy Solutions with Forensic Watermarking: Practical Implementations

Content Connection Summit 2016
From just a single leak, content is made available for free to millions of potential customers instantly across the world; it’s not just distribution revenue but also executive careers on the line. Forensic Watermarking is here to stay as the only proven anti-piracy technology that can provide actionable intelligence on global piracy. Come learn about practical implementation steps when implementing available forensic watermarking technology in conjunction with strong piracy monitoring services. Your chance to review, question and compare the available solutions from DWA members and ‘swipe right” with a professional partner to meet your specific needs. Rajan Samtani, Senior Advisor, Digital Watermarking Alliance

Register Here for #CPS2016

DRM: More Important Than Ever

By Rajan Samtani, Senior Advisor, and Graham M. Oakes, Chairman, Digital Watermarking Alliance

In the last several years—with the massive proliferation of readily available sources of content such as Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Pandora, audio, video, e-books, and games—piracy has continued to be a huge problem. As the availability of ever higher-fidelity options such as 4K Ultra HD and HDR hit the mainstream market, piracy from Bit Torrent, on-demand cyberlockers, and illicit streaming sites remains rampant.

As a result, industry bodies such as MovieLabs have come up with comprehensive content security recommendations and requirements for distributors, service providers, and OTT licensees to gain access to content. Of late, the scale of loss due to global sports piracy also creates a heavy burden. This situation is further exacerbated due to the proliferation of high-bandwidth internet connections available on ever more capable devices, enabling much higher-quality pirated content, directly captured through analog means. Addressing the content protection requirements in this new age requires stronger hardware security complemented by revocable and renewable software security along with strong robustness considerations. In addition, forensic watermarking is also being positioned as a requirement for the distribution of this higher value content.

It is clear that service providers, currently attempting to accommodate even a subset of the new requirements and recommendations, will be preparing the ecosystem for growing adoption of the more advanced content protection recommendations across the premium content ecosystems of the future.

Some of these functions such as advanced cryptography, best practices for key management, and more time-sensitive approaches to “activating” content corresponding to the street date, are already embodied in the state-of-the-art content protection systems available today. But there are many aspects of the new specifications that will require entirely new approaches to content security.

Often, in order to implement the hardware and software security required along with the adjacent monitoring, tracking, and remediation services, close collaboration among various parties in the ecosystem is necessary. Cooperation between service providers, chip manufacturers, component providers, and encoding technologies—as well as content protection technology vendors and service providers— becomes a necessity. For example, to implement some of the new recommendations such as digital watermarking, distributors and service providers need to invest in new infrastructure as well as change their policies to accommodate the forensic services required to track, trace, and then respond appropriately to the parties that leaked the pirated content.

Further, the next few years will see significant changes in business models as we make the transition from closed, managed service options for licensed content to open OTT, including IP and mobile distribution scenarios. The specifics of content security will need to respond to the rapid changes in standards for content formats, delivery, and QoS amidst the chaotic world of device fragmentation. There is a delicate balance between making the content protection easy to use and invisible to the legitimate user while still making it difficult for the pirate to access the content through illicit means.

This Superguide provides a survey of the available technologies and solutions to address the long-term implications of the proposed refinements for new content protection that all next generation system will need to accommodate. The technology providers represented in this guide offer the means to translate the recommendations and best practices into practical solutions that can be implemented today.

We hope it’s used as a “sense-making” tool as members of the content ecosystem navigate the complexity of incredibly fast-moving world of content production and distribution, while protecting their substantial investments and their obligations to the artists and the content creation community.

 

This text is an excerpt from the Streaming Media DRM/Content Protection Super Guide. Download the full Superguide from Streaming Media here.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Digital Watermarking Alliance Appoints New Officers, Members Unveil New Innovations in Digital Watermarking Applications

Santa Monica, CA, October 28, 2008 — The Digital Watermarking Alliance (DWA), an international group of industry-leading companies involved in commercializing digital watermarking solutions, has elected a new leadership slate for 2009:

  • Chair: John Utley, Civolution
  • Co-Vice Chairs: Bruce Davis, Digimarc; and Jian Zhao, Thomson
  • Treasurer: Mario Petrocco, Verance
  • Secretary: Neil Lofgren, GCS Research

Recent industry developments and news demonstrating continued momentum for digital watermarking solutions include:

  • Verimatrix has recently been awarded new patents for unique features within VideoMark™, its user-specific, forensic watermarking technology. The patents cover processes on how the forensic mark is invisibly and robustly embedded in video content, and converted to a human recognizable image during extraction. As has been proven in multiple evaluations, a human readable mark withstands more sophisticated video manipulations such as cropping and geometric distortions, than those which rely on machine extraction alone. Verimatrix’s end-to-end VideoMark solution includes the recovery of the unique client identification from all unauthorized analog and digital distribution formats. The mark extracted from pirated content, which never contains personal subscriber data, can be traced back to the last legal recipient of the content by the operator.
  • GCS Research announced the official release of GeoMarc®3.0 for both desktop and server side computing environments. GeoMarc is specifically designed for the Geospatial Industry, a community that relies heavily on satellite imagery and other pixel-based datasets for everyday analysis. GeoMarc uses digital watermarking technology to reliably embed key pieces of information about the satellite data and the geographic area depicted into the image itself. This capability is extremely valuable to geospatial analysts, who describe the watermark payload as “metadata.” Metadata, or “data about the data,” is considered the most valuable component of geospatial datasets. If an analyst or other geospatial professional cannot determine key facts such as when the image was acquired, the original resolution, satellite sensor type, where the area is located, licensing restrictions, and other such facts, the image becomes simply a pretty picture. GeoMarc helps protect and add value to the geospatial community’s investment in satellite data. GeoMarc is currently being used in both the military and intelligence sector and the private sector, including satellite data providers and their customers.
  • Thomson recently announced that TF1, France’s leading TV broadcaster, selected Thomson NexGuard™ content protection solution to secure its business-to-business preview content platform, TF1PRO. In addition, Thomson and Conax successfully integrated Conax advanced chipset pairing technology with Thomson’s NexGuard set-top box watermarking solution to furnish digital TV operators with stronger tools for fighting illegal redistribution of premium content. For more information, please visit: http://contentsecurity.thomson.net
  • Digimarc Corporation announced the availability of its newly enhanced Digimarc for Images plug-ins, shipped in-box with Adobe PhotoShop®, enabling photographers and corporations to better manage their photos and image assets by communicating copyright information and owner contact details, and reporting to owners on both authorized and unauthorized use of images online. Digimarc for Images enables content owners to place a persistent, invisible digital identifier (digital watermark) into photographs and other images. The company also offers a Search Service that continuously crawls the Web looking for such watermarked images. Digimarc will offer a free Webcast on November 13 for Adobe users interested in learning more about digitally watermarking their images using Adobe PhotoShop®. For further information on the Webcast pricing and availability, please go to www.digimarc.com/images.
  • The business unit formerly known as Philips Content Identification announced on Monday October 20th the completion of its spin-out from Philips Corporate Technologies. The company now operates under the new name Civolution B.V. The spin-out allows Civolution the flexibility to take new strategic directions beyond the current scope of Philips and to focus fully on meeting market demands as they evolve. The spin-out includes Teletrax, the world’s only global broadcast intelligence service (and former joint-venture of Philips and Medialink) and Mediahedge, the content identification and monetization platform.
  • Earlier this year Teletrax announced a multi-year contract renewal with the NBC Agency, a division of NBC Universal Inc., to electronically monitor and analyze affiliate stations’ usage of its on-air television show promotions across all 210 U.S. television markets. And Philips announced the world’s first flat panel TV with integrated watermarking for the hospitality market. In an effort to deter the unlawful copying of HD movies in hotels, Philips is leading the industry with its integrated VTrack digital watermarking. To find out more visit the Civolution website: www.civolution.com; Teletrax: www.teletrax.tv; or Mediahedge: www.mediahedge.com.
  • The DWA will co-host the “Content Rights/ Content Monetization Dinner” at Digital Hollywood Fall, on Wednesday October 29.

About the Digital Watermarking Alliance
The Digital Watermarking Alliance (DWA) is an international alliance of industry leading companies that deliver valuable digital watermarking technology and solutions to a broad range of customers and markets around the world. Member companies include AquaMobile, Civolution B.V., DataMark Technologies, Digimarc (Nasdaq: DMRC), GCS Research, Gibson, ISAN-IA, MarkAny, MediaGrid, Media Science International, Signum, Streamburst, The Nielsen Company, Thomson (Euronext 18453; NYSE: TMS), Université catholique de Louvain, Verance, Verimatrix, and Widevine Technologies. For more information, please visit www.digitalwatermarkingalliance.org

CONTACT: For media inquiries, please contact Delisa Davis of RH Strategic (Tel: (202) 585-0210; E-mail: ddavis@rhstrategic.com)