The US Patent and Trademark Office published US Patent Application #20200012765, submitted in 2018 by the number two satellite TV provider in the US, DISH Network. It describes an anti-piracy system that would enable a rights owner to embed identifying information into a digital asset using watermarking, and enable the rights owner to use blockchain transactions to record or update rights and usage information to be associated with that identifier.
When a user requests to use the content, the transaction will either pass or fail. If playback is attempted by an infringing user, the system could trigger responses to address the instance. For example, a feature could be set up to request a payment, or to force the user to log in again.
The patent application describes potential use-cases and transaction processing flows in detail. The patent application lists the inventors as a Senior Legal Counsel at DISH, and a former DISH brand manager who is now at The International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy, a community of broadcasters allied against piracy.
News about this patent application was originally reported by Coindesk in January. Their article was inadvertently linked to the wrong patent application. As other publications picked up on the story, this error has reverberated around the industry trade press. The reference in this article, above, is the correct one.
What it means
DISH has long been one of the more aggressive players in pursuing video piracy resulting from breaches in distribution.
This new approach may significantly reduce the cost of identifying instances of piracy. Here, usage is tied to a blockchain transaction, so there is no need to simultaneously monitor the myriad of suspected or likely pirate hosting and streaming sites, search engines or social media services for infringing instances of content. Instead, the system tests for legitimacy when a request is made to play it.
In an abstract way, it’s conceptually analogous to comparing a unicast session request to a broadcast feed – a pull instead of a push. Instead of constantly watching for offenders, it’s patiently waiting for requests.
Over the past decade, DISH has lost about a third of its satellite TV subscribers to cord-cutting in favor of over-the-top services and other forms of competition, including pirate streaming; going from more than 14 million in 2014, to about 9.4 million in the third quarter of 2019.