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Vidnet 2021: Stakeholders need to come together to suppress piracy

It has never been more imperative to guard against digital content pirates.

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NEW DELHI: Following the imposition of a nationwide lockdown in March, Indians were confined to their homes at odds and ends. There were no live sporting events, cinema halls were shuttered and TV channels were playing stale programming on loop; the only platforms supplying fresh content were OTTs. And while these services saw significant uptake during this period, there’s a flip side to it too – a MUSO report states that online film piracy in India rose 62 per cent in the last week of March. Data indicates that it has never been easier to view content illegally and more Indians have become comfortable about doing so.

As OTT platforms pump more money into the business to deliver premium content, it has never been more imperative for them to step up security measures to protect their assets, revenue and become ‘hack proof.’ During a special session at Indiantelevision.com’s flagship property Vidnet, SonyLIV head of technology Manish Verma, Epic ON COO Sourjya Mohanty, Viu director technology & platform Praveen Singh and head of Amazon Web Services elemental (media services), edge (CDN) & security (WAF/DDoS) - India & South Asia Binu Balan came together to discuss hot button issues like technological evolution in content protection, video content security and the rise of digital piracy. INKA Entworks India global business head Govindraj Basatwar acted as moderator.

Basatwar started off by saying that consent security is like a tug of war – on one end, security companies have to keep investing in and updating fraud detection services, while on the other end are the pirates, who are also upgrading their technologies to detect and exploit vulnerabilities in the platforms.

In such a scenario where piracy cannot be stopped, the best course of action is to minimise it by adopting a 360-degree approach, according to SonyLIV’s Verma. “One has to start from each level, right from the CDN, to using DRM or manifest encryption; clients need to be protected because web, MWEB and mobile clients often leave some vulnerability which can be exploited.”

There is also a need to have 24x7 field operations that are both manual and automated to monitor, identify and take down content piracy as it happens, he added.

Besides DRM-protected content, forensic watermarking is another effective way to combat piracy as it discourages hackers from uploading files online for illegal consumption on peer to peer sites or apps like Telegram. But the panellists agreed that the need of the hour is end-to-end video content security.

“There are three basic pillars when it comes to end-to-end content protection,” stated Singh. “First is when the content is at rest, second is when the content is in transition between servers and consumers and third is when the content reaches the consumer. In many  cases, we don’t care about catering to the last pillar and protecting the content while it is playing. This is when DRM becomes the actual differentiator. We need to implement the right tool for the right level.”

He went on to explain that building in security on the application is the very first step to ensure that it doesn’t answer to ‘spoof calls’ – or an impostor pretending to be a genuine client; this should be followed by growing it to a full-fledged DRM. This creates a watertight system where not just copying but even those not authorised to access the content are blocked, thereby safeguarding both asset and revenue.

Amazon Web Services is doing just that, asserted Balan. It satisfies the security requirements of not just OTTs, but also the military, global banks and organisations trading in highly-sensitive information. For media customers, it uses tools like Elemental Media Convert that offers client-side and server-side encryption, and also allows integration with major forensic watermarking providers like NAGRA.

"With this, we help customers block any users immediately if they find breach of content. For a live product, you've got Media Live package which provides the same kind of interface. We help customers protect all major formats like HLS, Widevine, CMAF, Playready etc. It is very important to protect content at rest," added Balan.

However, using third party software also poses certain difficulties. Verma shared that the biggest challenge with implementing multi-CDN and multi-DRM solutions is ensuring consistency throughout. Some solutions like watermarking have not yet reached the economy of scale. They’re on the expensive side and we need to look into making them available to the masses. We’re trying to find a midway on implementing these solutions along with the ones that already exist in the market,” he elaborated.

No doubt technological defences are a prerequisite, but awareness is equally important – for users and content providers both. For the latter, it’s about having knowledge of legal remedies to piracy, while for users, it’s about being educated about best practices.

“The buck stops at us. We need to implement these three pillars of technological adoption, awareness and legal enforcement. Content providers, platforms, technology partners and law enforcement have to come together and keep on evolving from time to time to suppress the piracy market and grow our revenue,” said Mohanty.

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