5 Benefits of Digital Watermarking

Today, stolen content represents as much as half of all video content that is consumed. This is an ongoing, business-critical issue: pirated video material is viewed over 230 billion times per year, with more than 80% of global online piracy attributed to illegal streaming services. Today, controlling unauthorised use of your video content is a greater challenge than ever, which is why protection strategies need more of your business’s attention to prevent future revenue losses. Digital forensic watermarking is one solution that can play a key role in the fight against piracy. 

Watermarking is a powerful solution in the content protection and anti-piracy toolkit. In essence, it involves overlaying user-unique invisible graphics onto video without in any way affecting its quality. The overlaid graphics – the watermark – can subsequently be extracted from a device or stream that is illegally redistributing the content. The individual nature of the watermark identifies the original source of the content, enabling the broadcaster, platform operator or rights holder to take remedial action to ensure that the source is subsequently unable to be accessed for the purposes of piracy. 

That’s the overview, but what are the real benefits that digital watermarking brings to your operation? Here are 5 reasons why you should consider watermarking to protect your premium, high-value content:

1. Quickly and efficiently cut off access to your content for pirates

It’s a fact that piracy of premium content created or owned by broadcasters, service delivery operators and platforms costs them a lot of money. Digital watermarking can be applied at subscriber or distributor level, which means that the source can be easily and quickly identified, whether it is through platform leaks or from a hijacked subscriber. The source can then very quickly be suspended, which denies access to it by the illicit re-streamer. Cutting off access for pirates prevents uncontrolled spread of the protected content across massive piracy networks and greatly reduces the associated revenue losses to the broadcaster/owner.

2. End-to-end protection

Digital rights management (DRM) is of course industry-standard when it comes to protecting in-flight content, but complete content protection doesn’t end at the point of receipt. DRM is a must for protecting content on its way to the viewer, but once it arrives it’s an open game for pirates. Screen scraping, or using an HDMI splitter to rip out DRM protection are unsophisticated but extremely cheap and widely used methods of stealing content that can then be redistributed. Content needs to be protected beyond DRM, and this is where watermarking comes in. Watermarking, in concert with effective content monitoring, should be implemented as part of any overall content distribution strategy.

3. Real-time protection

There are a few different types of watermarking, and you learn more about the different capabilities of each here. One extremely important feature of client-composited watermarking (such as ASiD OTT ) is the speed with which pirated content can be taken down. Unlike other types of watermarking, client-composited watermarking allows the extraction process to happen in an extremely short window, enabling the identification of content theft in as little as a few seconds. Using this watermarking technology, and automated large-scale content monitoring, organisations involved in the broadcast of live media can protect their content anywhere around the world, in real-time. The source of pirated content can be identified and stopped while the broadcast is still live, meaning you don’t have to wait until it’s off the air to shut down illegal activity. This is ideal for the broadcasting of premium sports, music, film festivals and other exclusive live events whose value decreases significantly once live broadcast has been completed.

4. Robust protection without losing quality

In video, the quality of the end product is paramount, and you dedicate a lot of time and resources to ensuring the product you deliver to your viewers looks as good as it possibly can. Happily, watermarking plays very nicely in this environment. The nature of the overlay that constitutes a digital watermark means that it is imperceptible to the human eye, which means that your video looks as good at the end point as it does when you deliver it. Your customers don’t even know that the watermark is present. However, pirates will go to great lengths to try and circumvent, strip out or otherwise bypass watermarking, as they do other forms of content security. It’s critical that the watermarking implementation is as robust as the rest of the distribution chain, and thankfully modern technology provides high levels of protection against watermark circumvention techniques such as scaling, cropping, masking, recompression, plus collusion and image processing attacks. And it should always be remembered: any chain is only as strong as its weakest link – effective protection has to be implemented throughout every part of the distribution chain, including beyond delivery.

5. IP protection for all types of content

We’ve discussed the use of watermarking to protect live broadcasts, but the same watermarking techniques can really be applied to any type of video content such as video on demand (VOD). And with video becoming an increasingly important asset across every industry, watermarking solutions are not only applicable to traditional sectors, such as media, entertainment and sports content; corporate assets can be protected by solutions like ASiD watermarking. The theft of intellectual property and sensitive information is as much an issue as the illegal redistribution of live broadcast content and premium VOD, and can cost organisations a huge amount of money and damage their brand.

Digital watermarking can be a truly powerful tool in the fight against content piracy, and is already used by broadcasters, rights holders, delivery platforms and service providers around the world. Friend MTS watermarking solutions are deployed in millions of devices globally, ensuring that our customers’ content is fully protected. And they can give you the same confidence that your revenue is safe from the impact of large-scale illegal content redistribution and from theft of IP.

To learn more about watermarking and anti-piracy content protection, click here. Or better still, talk to one of our friendly experts, we are here to help.

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