Tor Helge Kristiansen, evp principal architect, Conax, explains forensic watermarking and why it can be highly useful in fighting 4K content piracy.

Forensic watermarking is the process of embedding information in the video or audio of the TV signal, thus enabling the possibility to later use this information to identify the end subscriber or the operator providing the content.

In simplified terms, small adjustments are made to the video or audio pixels - invisible to the user - to later track specific content that has been leaked.

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Tor Helge Kristiansen, evp principal architect, Conax

Can a pirate or thief identify watermarked content or successfully alter it?

Optimally, the watermark should be completely invisible.

Developed to be highly resilient, a camcorder video of content, cropping, resizing and even changing the color should not affect the watermarking – it will still be traceable.

Letting the audience know that watermarking is present can create a valuable preventative effect.

The growing significance of watermarking for both operators and content providers has everything to do with the protection of highly valuable, high quality content - such as 4K and UHD. The higher the content value, the more requirements will likely evolve for securing such content.

In a significant move to ensure sustainability of premium content, Movielabs created a set of recommendations, the MovieLabs Enhanced Content Protection specification, for sanctioning access to high value 4K and Ultra HD from Hollywood studios.

Watermarking is identified as one of the key security mechanisms recommended for both early release windows and 4K UHD content.

”Letting the audience know that watermarking is present can create a valuable preventative effect”

To provide the best overall framework for protecting the varied elements of platform revenues, employing a holistic security framework that includes watermarking can provide the ultimate protection.

This entails a complete security ecosystem from A-Z to protect premium content revenues, tapping the combined capabilities of multiple expert solutions including tracking, identifying/tracing and detection services – all secured by content protection technology to prevent illicit distribution of content at its origin.

All elements of complete watermark architecture should be fully secured in the device and controlled by robust content protection.

Creating a secure environment

Providing a security environment to host watermarking in the operator’s client device is key. For premium live and VOD content delivered to operator-controlled devices, forensic watermarking is a proven means of tracking illicit re-distribution back to its source.

Key is building a security architecture in the STB that can host a watermarking solution, fully controlled by the conditional access (CA) system.

The CA identity is used as a tamper resistant watermark identity, traceable back to the subscriber. CA technology will also enable turning the watermark on and off, as well as shut down the service and notify the user that they are violating the operator’s content rights.

This content was first published at IBC2016

The views expressed are those of the author.