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.