Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Controlling video piracy on IPTV supplier websites through forensic watermarking

Piracy of premium video content troubles content owners across the world. Be it OTT content produced by top Hollywood studios, broadcasting of live sporting and entertainment events, or subscription-based educational content, hackers are on the prowl for varied content that they can sell at a cheaper price to unsuspecting customers.

The IPTV space has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, with many OTT platforms, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, taking the lead, so much so that many users believe that these are the only players that exist as IPTV supplier websites. Popular OTT platforms tend to stream DRM protected content to keep a watch on user behavior and manage user licenses across devices and accounts. However, the popularity of unverified IPTV service providers have also increased with time, since they offer cost-effectiveness to users and whose apps can be easily sideloaded to streaming devices, like Amazon FireStick.

While many of these unverified IPTV supplier websites are legal, just that they are not as popular as corporate giants, pirates also operate through them. Hackers tend to access content of major Hollywood studios, live events, TV dramas, etc. through OTT apps, browsers, or even analog feeds and transcode them with their own encoders. Once decrypted content is accessed by pirates, they make it available on their IPTV supplier website of choice, from where it is consumed by users either through their regular subscriptions or stand-alone downloadable links.

While hackers can bypass the DRM system in this process, if content owners use a robust video watermarking solution before encrypting the content and releasing it on OTT platforms, they can locate the last user device from where a particular video asset leaked and reached the piracy ecosystem. A forensic video watermark is a unique set of data which is embedded in each video frame of the target asset and can contain details of session ID, asset ID, user ID, date and time of access, geographical region where it is accessed, device ID and operating system, etc.

Forensic watermarking vendors maintain a database of unique video watermarks. Once the content owner detects unauthorized use of their video asset, the vendor extracts watermark from it and matches it with its database, thus locating the exact user device from where it leaked. A good vendor watches IPTV supplier websites constantly to detect such leakages of premium content, which allows the content owner to proceed against the pirate legally.

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