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Top 7 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Forensic Watermarking Vendor

With the increasing demand for digital content, there has been a corresponding rise in the need for effective methods to protect such content from unauthorised access and infringement. The widespread availability of high-speed internet connections and the increasing popularity of app-based smart TVs have contributed to the growth of the legitimate streaming market. However, this has also created opportunities for video piracy, which has become a big business in recent years. With real-time video piracy, illegal streaming services offer access to live sports events, TV shows, and movies to viewers at a fraction of the cost of legitimate streaming services. These illegal services not only deprive content creators of their rightful revenue but also pose a significant threat to the legitimate streaming market. One of the solutions that has gained popularity in recent times is the use of digital watermarking. Watermarking has become an essential tool for offering additional security to digital rights management (DRM) protected content. DRM refers to a range of technologies and measures that are used to prevent unauthorised access, copying, or sharing of digital content. However, even with DRM in place, there is still a risk of infringement, which is where watermarking comes in.

Digital forensic watermarking involves embedding imperceptible information in a video file, such as an image or text. This information is useful to identify the unauthorised distribution channel or source. Forensic watermarking starts right at the level of studios or from the cloud and is carried till the end user’s device. A forensic watermark is embedded into the video content during the encoding process and cannot be manipulated later either by encoding, resizing, cropping or scaling. This ensures content protection while not interfering with the viewing experience. With the help of watermarking, content ownership can be verified and the source of piracy be easily identified by extracting the watermark payload, which can work effectively even on low-grade and recompressed videos.

You may like to read – Understanding Digital Rights Management

If you are planning or already streaming your valuable video content and reaching a larger audience with a vision of exponential growth at the same time you want to safeguard it by incorporating digital forensic watermark then this article is for you to look for . Hopefully you are aware of what digital forensic watermarking is and its benefits.

Listed below are 7 key things to look for when choosing a vendor for Digital Forensic watermark:

  1. Imperceptibility and video quality : With various codecs and video formats developed for enhancing the viewers experience when watermark is inserted for security purposes it should not introduce unnecessary noise/video artefacts, indicating the area where the watermark is applied. If the area is visible, then it is prone to attacks by the hackers thereby defeating the purpose of forensic watermark. The forensic watermark providing solution companies should have done extensive testing of watermark embedded video on various devices right from mobile screen, tablets, to 8K, curved televisions with HDR, HDR 10+ .
  2. Detection & Robustness to attack capabilities :  Continuing on the point 1, if the embedded watermark is not visible to human eyes on the device, what is the success rate of detection? This determines the strength of the technology, the watermark visibility strength is directly proportional to the forensic watermark embedded extraction rate in case of piracy. Hence, imperceptible forensic watermark applied video, if recorded by any device is able to provide a good success rate with detection would be the solution to choose for. The next point to check is how robust to attacks is the watermark solution, have there been any certification tests carried out to gain more confidence on the solution? What if hackers/pirates have carried out attacks does the company have any fall back mechanism? If the answer is yes, the vendor gets a point for consideration!!
  3. Free trial with shorter go to market: Does the watermark solution provider provide a trial option to see the feasibility of integrating the solution in your existing production pipeline? Once you have applied a forensic watermark to the video then will you be able to run a detection test to be sure before signing with the vendor? If the vendor provides a free trial and support during POC then additional points for consideration!!
  4. Scalability, Performance: If the vendor is able to watermark content at small to large scale without affecting the current performance of transcoding and encoding then this is a plus point for consideration. If the vendor provides multiple solutions that suit your current system such as watermarking during encoding or transcoding without additional overhead and without compatibility issues, the vendor gets a point for consideration!
  5. Integration with existing systems: Ensure that the vendor’s digital forensic watermarking solution can integrate seamlessly with your existing streaming content management systems and platforms, CDN . Also can it work with Multi-DRM seamlessly and are there any overhead if Multi-DRM and forensic watermark both are applied . If the vendor can provide Multi-DRM with Forensic watermark in a single workflow then a bonus point!!
  6. Support and maintenance: Choose a vendor that offers comprehensive support and maintenance services to ensure that the digital forensic watermarking solution is always up-to-date and working as expected. Also in case of attacks to circumvent the watermark will the support be able to exact information using alternate methods. If there is no additional cost to support and if they can resolve your problems with a quick response, it is worth considering the vendor.
  7. Cost-effectiveness: Compare the pricing and costs of different digital forensic watermark vendors to ensure that you are getting the best value for your money. Look for vendors that offer flexible pricing options, additional features of transcoding and encoding at minimal cost as it reduces the capex while starting a new streaming service, and cost-effective solutions for your specific needs. For example, if you have few videos to be watermarked in a month but subsequently high in later months and the vendor is ready to provide a pay-as-you use plan then it would be a win-win situation as you would not be paying for something you are not utilising.

You may like to read – Securing OTT Content with Multi-DRM & Forensic Watermarking

DRM video protection, combined with forensic watermarking, offers the next level of protection from video piracy. To ensure effective scalability for millions of users and devices, a watermarking solution should be designed with scalability in mind from the outset. This includes leveraging cloud-based technologies that can dynamically allocate resources as demand increases, and designing the watermarking algorithm to be highly efficient and low-latency to minimise detection time. For live sports events, real-time watermarking is essential to ensure that pirates are detected and deterred as quickly as possible. This requires a highly optimised watermarking algorithm that can operate in near-real-time and a robust infrastructure to handle the large volume of data generated during live broadcasts.

Overall, watermarking is an important component of an effective anti-piracy strategy, but it must be used in conjunction with other measures to provide a comprehensive approach to content protection. Sum up all the points and if any vendor is scoring 7/7 then go sign up and secure your content. Best of luck in the fight against piracy and securing your content!!