CPS 2019: NAGRA Stresses Importance of Forensic Watermarking

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — It’s important for a media and entertainment company to protect its video content from being restreamed and shared, whether it’s on a B2B or B2C basis, and forensic watermarking can play a key role in accomplishing that, according to Joe Daniel, senior solutions architect at NAGRA.

After all, everybody in the industry knows that piracy is a significant, growing problem, he said Dec. 4, during the presentation “Forensic Watermarking as Key Pillar of Anti-Piracy Strategy” at the Content Protection Summit.

But the number of households using pirate services to watch TV globally is growing about 3% each year, which even came as a surprise to him, he noted. It grew 14-17% in the last year alone, he said, citing data from the Pay-TV Innovation Forum Global Findings Report.

During the session, Daniel addressed the connection between watermarking and analysis of piracy sources and support of enforcement activities, described the role that forensic watermarking plays in an anti-piracy strategy, and discussed considerations when protecting video on demand (movies and TV shows) and live content (sports and other events) content.

There are ad-supported pirate services, but it’s the more professional pay pirate services that are becoming a significant rival to legitimate video services, according to Daniel.

The best way we can fight that trend is to use a comprehensive cloud-based security services platform, he told attendees, and went on to discuss the key pillars of such a platform.

Effective anti-piracy services tend to include a team that monitors pirate service streams and investigates where they’re operating from, as well as take-down actions, he noted, citing the importance of legal expertise also.

Spoilers and other visible watermarks that one can see on the screen while watching content can be effective for deterrence, he pointed out.

But invisible, forensic watermarks in which unique information gets embedded into the video pixels, making every piece of content unique and traceable can be even more effective, he explained, noting that the source of any leaked content used in a pirated stream can be traced this way. There’s two goals: Deterrence of piracy and gaining intelligence to find the perpetrators of pirated content, he noted.

A growing number of countries, meanwhile, are supporting the ability of content owners to have pirated content blocked from anybody using a particular service, he said.

Daniel also discussed the difference between server-side watermarks that are embedded in streams on a session basis and client-side watermarks that are implemented in devices including game consoles, pay-TV set-top boxes or streaming devices. The main benefit of server-side watermarking is that it avoids the integration required by implementation within multiple pieces of hardware, he noted.
Meanwhile, when using a watermark it’s best to use one that studios and sports leagues are familiar with and have already used, he told attendees.

The Content Protection Summit was produced by MESA and CDSA, and was presented by SHIFT, with sponsorship by IBM Security, NAGRA, Convergent Risks, LiveTiles, Richey May Technology Solutions, EIDR, the Trusted Partner Network (TPN) and Darktrace.