As a company we have taken a unique approach to anti-piracy; Rather than a disjointed approach where a product from one company does one part and another product from another company does something else, we have developed multiple solutions and brought them into one video product.
This has resulted in an incredible success rate of piracy blocking.
Reducing the Level of Piracy for Live Football Matches
Without doubt the greatest challenge for any broadcaster of OTT content is piracy. In 2016 we were experiencing up to 200 different online sources for Celtic FC matches - mainly due to the vulnerabilities in the HLS protocol but also through poor security by online video providers.
The two main methods were re-streaming (this is where a video feed is pulled through video outputs or screen grabbing, re-encoded and pushed through their own CDN), and direct pulling of the stream straight from the broadcasters CDN (usually they would subscribe and once they have logged in and received a token they could open another player on the same browser, bypass the security and load the player on their pirate site).
The challenge was to block both methods and automate as much of the process as possible.
Using Multi-layer Protection and Detection Devices
The first hurdle we had to overcome was securing the stream to the browser through DRM.
We started development of the new player and website to accommodate DRM in August 2016. We found the whole journey to be difficult because we were early adopters of Uplynk DRM before it was fully developed. This meant there was no documentation and no direct reference of previous installations.
It was nearly three years before we could fully deploy DRM to live output in July 2019. The lessons learned during this period have proven to be invaluable when we apply it to the latest installations. We now have a large library of information built up over the last two years of end user testing. This has allowed us to roll out DRM to our new customers without the pain that normally comes with this.
The next challenge after DRM was deployed was to deal with the re-streaming of the content as direct pulling was no longer an option.
The problem in dealing with re-streaming is that in order to deal with it, you need two things in place; A way to identify who they are and a way to detach them during the live event. You would also need to find the pirate streams and to ensure they could not circumvent the measures you have in place to deal with this.
At some point you have to commit to every single measure to be deployed simultaneously or your efforts are wasted. You may stop one method of theft but it only pushes them into the next method.
Stream Digital have been working for the past five years on a suite of measures and software that when combined together provides a very robust and solid solution to the on-going issue of live event security.
The live streaming platform has fully implemented and tested DRM which has already been deployed in over one hundred live events. It has proven to be reliable and secure with some clients reporting that along with the other measures it has brought instances of piracy to zero.
This is not an idle boast; We have documented proof which relates to this over the past 12 months of final testing and deployment. Instances of piracy from one major football club we work with have gone from the hundreds to zero for games where they were the only broadcaster. We are now finding the same results with the other three clubs which were next in the rollout program. We use only the main DRM solutions from Widevine, Playready and Fairplay as these do not impact heavily on the cost of delivery and are very reliable.
We check every session and identify if they are using a VPN. A warning then appears on the screen and we also prevent them receiving the stream unless they disable the VPN. The reason for this is to prevent pirates hiding their identity and also to prevent people within a blocked region watching the content.
This is a major problem for football clubs who do not wish for their games to be seen in the region that they are trying to sell tickets in. It is also a requirement for rights holders to demand robust protection against the steam being easy to watch in blocked areas.
Every twenty seconds, we use a secure and reliable method of live checks during the event to establish if the code is being tampered with.
This could be hackers trying to disable any of the watermarking or on screen identifiers. It could also be an attempt to hack the DRM or pull the stream through another method. When interference is detected, the stream is automatically disconnected and a notification is sent to the CMS to flag the culprit as a potential pirate. This way when the user contacts you to complain they are being blocked you have information as to why they were revoked.
On-Screen Identification of Users
The biggest challenge to broadcasters is identifying re-streamers.
DRM only works to remove the easy ways to steal the content - it is pointless if you allow the screen capture re-streaming or any other method of pushing a copy online.
We looked at this problem and broke it down into three stages:
- Identifying the location of the stream (what site is it on)
- Identifying the source of the stream (which user is pushing it)
- Building measures to deal with the pirate and prevent any recurrence
We have built our secondary system around these three stages; We locate pirate streams using our tracking system, find the source via our on-screen identifiers, kill the session using the revoke feature and the tools in our Videobloc CMS prevent them re-subscribing by tracking the details and bank cards and blocking the accounts etc.