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Can you imagine putting in hours of work to create quality content only for it to be available free elsewhere, and you lose revenue? Video content thieves or pirates do not believe in paying for content when it can be available for free and go to extremes to ensure “free” content is made public for other users as well.
So, what is Video Piracy?
In technical terms, this means unauthorized and prohibited distribution of video content that violates a content creator’s exclusive ownership rights. Or, to simply put it, using videos from a content creator and sharing it with the public without permission.
The types of video piracy you’ll encounter
1. Credential sharing:
A lot of people share their credentials of an OTT platform with their friends and family to save money. Some even share it with strangers to swap the different subscribed services. This results in a huge revenue loss for any OTT platform.
2. Password theft:
Some pirates hack into accounts to steal the credentials of genuine users. These credentials are then sold, or videos are made available to others either through downloads or screen sharing.
3. Fake accounts:
Some explore unlimited free access by simply creating fake accounts to use trials provided by OTT platforms. They even provide multiple credit/debit card details to gain such free access.
4. Screen recordings:
The easiest method pirates opt for creating pirated content is screen recordings which are then sold or published on illegal websites, which either come with free downloads or a subscription price that’s lower than other OTT platforms.
5. Video downloads:
There are several tools online which enable users to convert and download videos from OTT streaming channels. You just need to add the URL, and the video gets downloaded through that tool.
6. Token theft:
Apps and websites that offer streaming services often use tokens to identify its user. It makes it easy for pirates to copy this token and use it on other devices to stream videos.
7. Key distribution theft:
Content creators use encryption to safeguard their videos but often forget to enhance the security of their public keys. This can be accessed with some effort which then allows pirates to convert encrypted files to raw videos.
How does video piracy happen with various types?
1. On-demand videos:
On-demand videos are stored in servers in a location or across the globe. CDNs then access them based on the request from users and stream videos. Some of the prominent ways of video piracy are:
- Credential theft and sharing
- Hacks into encrypted files to convert them into raw files
- Screen recording and distribution
- Bypass controls to access content, tokens, and user data
2. Live streaming videos:
With live streaming videos, the pirates usually work in real-time to get control of the video content. Some famous methods are:
- Screen recording and distribution
- Distribution of credentials for multiple screen viewing
- Live screen sharing after bypassing security
- Use VPN to access live video content of a particular region
How is the pirated content distributed?
Pirates find every way possible to stream video content using technical loopholes. Some of the distribution channels include:
- Applications that allow streaming pirated content on mobile and other devices
- Software that enables download of pirated content onto Internet-connected devices
- Websites and social media that streams pirated content
- File hosting, torrent sites, and cyberlocker
How does video piracy impact the OTT business?
Lose subscribers and revenue:
OTT service providers lose a huge number of subscribers and revenue channels owing to piracy. When available for free, users prefer accessing pirated content versus paying a subscription to access the same content.
Security issues of your content and users:
Piracy not only targets your video content reserve, but hackers can access your user database and payment information if the security of your website and application is not tight. This leads to data leaks that can result in a security threat for all stakeholders involved.
Damaged reputation and loss of trust:
If the content and user data are leaked by a piracy attempt, then users shy away from subscribing to OTT platforms, fearing security breaches. Also, this diminishes the reputation of the service provider in the market, resulting in the loss of loyal subscribers too.
Content ownership diminishes:
When pirates duplicate your content and publish it on the internet, there are chances of loss of ownership of copyrights. These hackers do not exactly abide by the law, and there are chances that no matter how much legal action you take, the pirated video content might surface for free again and again.
CONTUS VPlayed’s Proven ways to combat OTT Video Piracy
Block password sharing:
Users often share credentials which result in simultaneous logins to watch premium content and loss of revenue. You can avoid this by using plugins or assign a unique ID to track the number of screens actively watching content.
Using Single sign-on:
While many people don’t shy away from sharing passwords to OTT platforms, they often don’t feel comfortable sharing their social media credentials. Using social media as a login method can hinder credential sharing amongst peers.
Regular watermarking can be easily erased or blurred by pirates. Digital watermarking includes embedding information in a video signal to identify its source. This enables to track back the source of pirated videos and take up measures to increase security.
Digital Rights Management (DRM):
DRM allows content creators to impose licensing requirements and restricts duplication without permission. This works the same way as encryption, where a code is embedded to disallow distribution.
Geofencing doesn’t exactly combat video piracy but can restrict access to users outside a geographical area. This is done by accessing the location of an IP address of a user and allowing streaming only if it passes the geographical criteria.
Encryption (HLS/ DASH):
Encryption keys often stop unauthorized access to data. The most popular encryption software for video content is HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) which is older and widely used, and DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP), which is the latest and more efficient format.
Website blocking (IP address/ domain/ URL blocking):
OTT streaming platforms work with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to actively identify and block illegal pirated websites. This is done through IP (Internet Protocol) blocking, domain blocking, and URL blocking to ensure videos cannot be distributed or embedded in any other website.
Limit watch time:
If your video content is a training video that isn’t required to be accessed multiple times, you can limit watch time. Based on your users’ behavior, you can make decisions to stop many users from watching your content through credential sharing.
Prevent screen recording:
There are many plugins and tools you can use to avoid screen recording from devices. Using them can avoid duplication of your unique content.
Set content access limit:
Whether it is limiting the number of screens, the number of replays, or even the number of logins can hinder users from sharing their credentials and identifying illegal logins. This way, you can curb piracy to an extent.
Other strategies to curtail piracy
Educate your audience:
Often users aren’t aware when content is pirated. They might know that downloading a full copyrighted movie for free is wrong, but if they pay a premium subscription to access such content, they might be under the impression that it is a legal method. Informing your audience of this by adding frames or subtitles about piracy and copyrights can hinder such behavior.
Freemium or AVOD models:
Allowing users to access OTT platforms for free trials can help them understand the unique content available in your streaming platform and choose to subscribe for more. Also, instead of a subscription, using Advertising Video-On-Demand models like YouTube, where content is free but is subjected to advertisements as part of the experience, can provide revenue while keeping your audience engaged.
Integrate offline viewing options:
When users go on vacation or off-grid, they want entertainment that is easily available offline. They wouldn’t want to use online-only OTT streaming. Offering download options like Netflix can make users stay hooked on your service instead of finding alternatives.
Seek help from cybersecurity experts:
If you think your content is being pirated by hackers, you can always reach out to cybersecurity experts to take down such websites. This not only secures your content but also protects other platforms that are facing similar problems.
Use AI technology:
AI technology can sniff out pirated content faster than humans. Using them to investigate any duplication of your content can be beneficial to your platform.
Piracy is not just a concern for the OTT industry alone but a multitude of other platforms. A strategic plan against content theft can be formed if content owners, streaming hosting services, and audiences join forces and take action. Build a secured OTT platform with CONTUS VPlayed, which will ensure 100% privacy & protection of your valuable OTT content.