How forensic watermarking can defeat efforts of pirate subscription wholesalers in selling pirated video content online and offline

Video content piracy has increased tremendously with the increase in the popularity of OTT platforms, like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Content owners the world over are fighting hard against piracy networks, which involve hackers who employ sophisticated methods and operate across territories.

OTT networks and content owners rely on digital rights management (DRM) technology to authenticate legitimate users and apply forensic watermarks on DRM protected content before sending it to the user device. Typically, the video watermarking takes place during the encoding process.

The video piracy ecosystem is an evolved global network. It has many components that operate both offline and online and in different parts of the world. For example, after an hacker has successfully obtained copies of popular OTT shows, they need to contact a piracy subscription wholesaler who aggregates all such pirated content and passes it on to the retailer or other streaming websites, which function like popular OTT platforms but at a much lesser cost.

The pirate subscription wholesaler is generally an astute observer of the OTT sector and keeps a watch on popularity of content in different geographical segments. Just like a legitimate OTT platform, the wholesaler also acquires content at a price from the hacker. Therefore, the wholesaler needs to keep a close watch on the trends in audience behavior to maximize their profit. An important thing to note here is that pirated content is sold both online as IPTV as well as offline using pre-loaded devices. The success of the offline model depends on the ability of the wholesaler to access popular pirated content from hackers.

However, it is not that all is lost for content owners once their content has reached the pirate ecosystem. Video watermarking technology, which they use along with multi-DRM tech, travels through the piracy ecosystem if the watermarking vendor is reliable. An effective forensic watermarking vendor creates robust watermarks that are inserted in each video frame of the video asset at the time of encoding. The unique, imperceptible watermark carries information about the device and user account where each video asset is accessed. Robust video watermarks are resilient against distortion and other types of attacks.

Content owners can rely on video watermarking vendors for maintaining a database of watermarks. When content owners detect pirated content, watermarks can be extracted from it and matched against the database maintained by vendors. This way, content owners can reach the person use leaked the content to the piracy ecosystem.

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