IBC 2022: A deeper dive into emerging piracy and anti-piracy trends

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At IBC 2022, Piracy Monitor learned how the media and entertainment community is seeing many more piracy use-cases, is taking a much more granular view of them; and is producing a much wider array of solutions.  Piracy Monitor segments piracy into multiple categories, and the industry is now aiming at many, if not all, of these categories.

It’s increasingly evident that few piracy use-cases can be resolved using just one form of countermeasure.  Consequently, anti-piracy must guarantee enterprise-grade security, and it must be kept fresh, be easy to integrate, and at the same time, reduce cost.

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Protecting infrastructure

The fragmentation of distribution channels by the media & entertainment industry has had many consequences.  One of them relevant to piracy has been leaks to infrastructure.  More than one security supplier talked about  “CDN leaks” where pirates steal content by sweeping networks.

“There’s much more interest in the industry now,” said a Nagra source. To help solve the problem, anti-piracy teams run by operators enlist outside assistance with piracy intelligence that can accelerate investigations. This can be used across the service landscape to identify relationships between leaks and distibution to gain insight toward how a pirate operates over the internet and to build evidence that ca be used by legal teams to support civil complaints.

Pay TV operators get a double hit because, first, they lose subscriber revenue to resellers of access to stolen programming, and secondly, this content is delivered back to the same consumers through fraudulent streaming sites that steal capacity from their networks.  This means that operators must over-provision their networks (capex) to accommodate those streams while guaranteeing high quality to their legitimate subscribers – and maintain that extra capacity (opex).

Securing breaches in end-user apps

Multiple technology suppliers were promoting app shielding solutions at IBC, including Verimatrix, Irdeto, and INKA Entworks.  Several other app protection suppliers also sent representatives but did not have a booth presence.  Some of them were offered as solutions – shielding plus features that complement them; some were offered as individual technologies – shielding only.

Theft of software and devices, and by extension, the “theft of you” (personal information, financial transactions during runtime, and such) and the theft of content from servers identified due to inadequate shielding of IP addresses in apps have become widely acknowledged.

Then there are more damaging attacks.  If a pirate captures your personal data from a breached app, you might later receive an email from a pirate saying “We have compromising images of you, and we will make them public if you don’t pay us $600.”  The person who sold the data to the pirate might receive a commission.

There were anecdotal reports that at least several of the major “Hollywood” studios are moving beyond forensic watermarking and monitoring, which is part of the MovieLabs Enhanced Content Protection guidelines; to require app protection.  One source said ‘it’s coming’ and another said that certain companies are already requiring it.

Protecting advertising

Synamedia is keen to expand awareness beyond its video service provider audiences by attracting CIOs and CSOs among content- and rights-owners, including those which serve multiple territories; including awareness of ad theft. Ad theft has flown under the radar in many circles, but research by the Digital Citizens Alliance in 2021 found that pirates stole more than $1.3B in advertising, and that 41% of major brand ad volume going through Amazon reached fraudulent consumer end-points.

NFTs, Blockchain and the Metaverse

By all accounts, it’s early days for piracy in the metaverse.  In July 2022, a collaboration of law enforcement agencies and technology companies announced Phase 4 of Operation 404, a piracy take-down operation in Brazil.  It announces its progress annually.  The latest one found media content in metaverse environments.

Consider that NFTs are the asset, the Blockchain affirms a chain of ownership, and the metaverse can be any immersive environment.  One source characterized the metaverse as multiple metaverses: each of them has a different owner, different rules, a different environment, with the challenge being to recognize assets across these different environments.

“It’s like going one pace into a dark cave, and not seeing the far wall,” said one industry figure.  “We’re not sure when it will become mainstream – five years? ten? But we need to be prepared.”

Protecting games as produced assets

Anti-piracy efforts are also looking at newer distribution mediums, including game play, and the metaverse.  More than one technology company reported the use of watermarking in a similar approach used for movies and TV programming, to track the use of trailers produced by game publishers to promote new titles.  In a metaverse, the publisher can see how these owned assets have been distributed, and, whether and how they are used by pirates.

Why it matters

Suppliers of anti-piracy technologies and professional services are looking for immersive experiences to understand how they work, and what it means from a licensing perspective: what do you want to allow?  What do you want to protect?  Is it valuable intellectual property?   They want to understand the use-cases.  Using security and usage data is becoming a key toward driving business decisions, moving security from being a cost center toward becoming a means of revenue protection and ultimately, a profit center.

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