Piracy is the main concern plaguing the digital distribution of media and entertainment. With consumer video-based traffic representing more than 80% of total internet traffic by 2021, online video piracy has skyrocketed. The film and television industry estimates nearly $52 billion in lost revenues by the year 2022, up from $31.8 billion in 2017, with the U.S. sustaining anticipated losses of $11.6 billion.
Content creators are searching for ways to maintain control and ownership of video assets, while safely maximizing customer reach and monetizing the content effectively. However, the management and control of conditional access to video is complex. The farther a video gets from the content owner, the harder it becomes to enforce the copyright.
This was illustrated last year, with the season seven premiere of Game of Thrones being illegally downloaded and streamed more than 90 million times within three days of it airing.
So what are content creators doing to combat content piracy today? Where does the system fall down? And why might blockchain hold the answer?
Keeping The Pirates At Bay
Worldwide, the media and entertainment industry have threatened legal action as one way to crack down on piracy.
In 2017, six studios (including Twentieth Century Fox and Disney Enterprises) filed proceedings against nine Irish internet service providers in an attempt to stop illegal downloading of copyrighted work. If the claims of the plaintiffs are accurate, digital piracy cost the Irish economy a staggering 500 jobs and €320 million in lost revenue during 2015 alone.
Not only is legal action retrospective, taking place after much of the damage is done, it’s often expensive and ineffective.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) tried to sue more than 20,000 people for sharing music files online. It reportedly spent $64 million pursuing these individuals and won just $1.36 million from its claims. This financial loss, and the negative press generated from trying to sue children and the deceased, led the RIAA to drop its claims.
Media and entertainment groups have also explored advertising campaigns to educate the public about the true cost of video piracy. The U.K. film and television industry launched “You Make the Movies” in 2010, a series of spoof scenes from movie classics including Reservoir Dogs, which aimed to educate viewers that illegal downloading prevented more good films from being made.
Content creators can also take immediate anti-piracy action by using video protection technologies such as digital watermarking. But this tactic is no failsafe for preventing piracy. Rather, it enables content producers and rights holders to track unlawful distribution after the fact.
The Limitations Of Today’s Video Protection Technologies
Most digital content today is tagged and tracked via archaic anti-copyright infringement technology, including watermarking as well as CAP coding (a distinguishing pattern of dots added during post-production, used as a forensic identifier to pinpoint the source of illegal copies). But it is not well protected.
The protection such technologies offer does not thwart film copying, sharing and other forms of content piracy, because there are many ways to circumvent them, including file compression, cropping, color variations and erasure of logos using content editing software. A simple Google search will uncover a variety of apps that have been developed specifically to remove digital watermarks.
Visual markers merely allow copies to be traced back to the original piece of content once it’s already been pirated. And that’s too little too late.
HBO found this out firsthand last summer when a hacker stole 1.5 terabytes of data, which they held ransom for $6 million worth of Bitcoin. The hacker gradually released several unaired programs and scripts when he didn’t receive the payoff sought.
Blockchain technology, however, may prove critical to the management and even protection of such video content.
The Promise Of Blockchain For Video
The fundamental promise of blockchain technology is that it protects digital assets more comprehensively than visual markers alone. It provides an additional barrier to infringement by implanting security safeguards within the content to control the duplication, sharing, transferring or selling of ownership, even over an untrusted network.
For this reason, media and entertainment industry leaders are looking to blockchain to secure digital video content, build in payment gateways and find better ways to automate and systematize royalties.
The roadblock to blockchain’s potential to prevent video piracy is file size. Traditional video files are simply too large and complex for blockchain. However, if the size of the digital files can be drastically reduced, blockchain could allow users to transfer videos securely, with all parties maintaining full visibility of the transfer. And virtualization technology may hold the answer.
Shrinking The File Size To Make Video Blockchain An Anti-Piracy Reality
Video virtualization could enable secure blockchain video transactions because the files are a fraction of a percent of the size of today’s digital videos. This makes them ideally suited as digital assets to be recorded, transferred and managed by a blockchain.
Blockchain technology could keep the video secured, only opening when both parties confirm the transfer was legitimate. This would eliminate any risk of pirates copying files and giving others illicit access.
The Future Of Video’s Anti-Piracy Tactics
To date, there have been no full-scale implementations of end-to-end video blockchain protection. But video virtualization’s ability to package content into smaller data files could solve this last mile for blockchain.
However, there are a number of companies already building blockchain solutions for video.
Earlier this year, U.S. production house Two Roads Pictures Co. announced a Hollywood first — that its indie romantic comedy No Postage Necessary would be distributed via peer-to-peer video network app Vevue, which runs on the Qtum blockchain.
So perhaps the solution isn’t to attack the pirates and point fingers, but to innovate in a way that blocks the looting from occurring in the first place.