Antitheft Technology Goes Global With New Tools & Data Resources

Stuart Rosove, VP, corporate & online marketing, Irdeto

Stuart Rosove, VP, corporate & online marketing, Irdeto

August 31, 2012 – Technology employed by U.S. film studios and TV programmers to fight online theft has been scaled to support similar initiatives elsewhere with new components that offer hope for what one day could be a globally coordinated approach to curtailing losses from Internet piracy.

The technology, introduced in 1999 by BayTSP and now owned by Irdeto, provides content owners with search and discovery services that identify and track unauthorized digital content, independent of language. Irdeto’s Intelligence Services unit has expanded the backend support system since acquiring BayTSP last year and is rapidly adding new capabilities such as tracking aimed at curtailing the flow of revenues from ad placement networks to pirates, says Stuart Rosove, formerly BayTSP CEO and now vice president of corporate and online marketing at Irdeto.

“While BayTSP’s customer base had grown to include the majority of Hollywood studios as well as major broadcast networks, it took Irdeto to address the challenge we faced in going to global scale and customer reach,” Rosove says. “Over the past eight or nine months we’ve been working behind the scenes to build a whole new backend to substantially upgrade our capabilities and broaden the scope of our services and to make them available on a global basis.”

Given the growing volume of illegitimate media content circulating through piracy channels, there’s a great need for such services worldwide, he adds. In 2009 the BayTSP platform processed 5.4 billion detections for its clients, which jumped to 9.6 billion in 2011. So far in 2012 Irdeto Intelligence has processed nearly nine billion detections and expects to process 14-15 billion by year’s end.

“We’re seeing leaks all over the world,” Rosove says. “We’re leveraging Irdeto’s global market reach to make it possible for our customers to expand the breadth of discovery and keep ahead of pirates’ innovations everywhere.” Not only are such services needed to curtail consumption of pirated material; content distributors need them in order to make sure material they promote on their sites is properly licensed, he notes.

The core technology acquired by Irdeto has three major components: high-level detection, which identifies and tracks digital assets across all major Internet protocols and sends immediate notification once a leak has been validated; enforcement, which enables ISPs and site operators to distribute cease-and-desist orders and to ensure removal of illicit content, and business intelligence and monetization, which monitors consumption across all major Internet channels in order to guide decisions about managing and monetizing content.

Until recently the primary focus of these capabilities has been in the peer-to-peer domain, where the technology’s algorithms use information publicly generated in the transfer process to identify sources and users and to determine whether the usage is authorized by copyright holders. Now the capabilities are being expanded to apply to streamed live and on-demand content and to content stored in cyberlockers.

As it continues to register upwards of one billion detections per month Irdeto Intelligence is building a massive database of identifying sources of illegal distribution worldwide, notes Lawrence Low, vice president of business development and sales for Irdeto Intelligence. “We’re drawing data from all major online piracy channels, including peer-to-peer, Web video, live streaming, cyberlockers, search engines and advertising networks,” he says.

A primary part of the service is to help customers act on illegal usage once it’s identified by distributing DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices alerting distributors to take action – ISPs in the case of point-to-point infringements, cyberlocker providers in the case of illegal uploads to storage and streaming sites when content is streamed illegally. Even in the case of live streaming, the service can identify instances where a live event is being illegally redistributed from an authorized site and act according, Low says.

With cooperation from the offending site, Irdeto Intelligence can provide tools to help it remove the stream, he adds. In fact, the company is working on methods of live stream removal that could be undertaken without site approval.

As previously reported (May, p. 19), Irdeto is implementing another tool, namely, electronic watermarking, to bolster its clients’ global antitheft efforts, notes Stuart Rosove. Known as TraceMark, the company’s watermarking process provides a session-based means of implanting invisible forensic signals into each individual stream so that when a user illicitly copies and distributes content from that stream, the purloined copies can be traced back to the point of theft.

“We’re providing a closed-loop full reporting service with TraceMark where the network service operator can be immediately informed when one of its customers is breaking the law,” Rosove says, noting that trials of the new system are now underway with various content suppliers. “This is part of our international push to further leverage our relationships with service providers.”

Indeed, a key to successful enforcement across all modes of distribution is the credibility the alerting service has with recipients of its DMCAs, Low observes. “Doing what we do over a long period of time, we’ve developed relationships with multiple sites and ISPs around the world,” he says. “When we say it’s bad, they know we have a high standard of validation and trust among our clients, so it’s credible.”

This credibility underlies the prospects that as Irdeto puts the Intelligence service into operation for clients across the globe the combination of a growing database of identified violators, new tools and wider participation will evolve organically into a much better mechanism for controlling theft than has existed so far. One seedbed for wider coordination may be the new mechanisms the company has implemented for cutting off the inadvertent funneling of ad revenues to pirates that occurs via the automated placement mechanisms of online ad networks.

The new Online Ad Network Monitoring service offers rights holders and brand advertisers enforcement against unauthorized pairing of pirated content and online ads, Low says. “Ad networks aren’t guilty of participating in illegal activity but they’re providing those that do a lucrative business model,” he notes.

As currently constituted the ad network monitoring service is just the “beginning of a longer-term strategy to disrupt the money flow to pirates,” he adds. “At this point we can document the money transfer. We know what the pirate sites are and what their illegal content portfolio looks like, so we can document at comprehensive scale the publishing and ad inventory on those sites.

“The next step,” he continues, “is working with our customers to determine best prevention strategies. One way might be by sending notices to ad networks. Some of the reputable ones already have policies against advertising on pirate websites. When they’re made aware their inventory is showing up on pirate sites, we believe they will comply and stop making deals with the pirate sites.”

Moving in the direction of motivating industry-wide cooperation in the anti-theft campaign, Irdeto is looking at developing “a broader approach with the online ad industry through the Interactive Advertising Bureau and other bodies to build some best practices and look at how they can keep the industry appraised of what sites are illegal,” Low says.

Beyond simply identifying and acting against theft, Irdeto is expanding its service capabilities to support clients’ efforts to drive new revenues by determining where there is demand for content that can only be obtained illegally. “As an indicator of unmet demand this feeds into distribution planning and other strategic activities at studios and distributors,” Low says. “We’re at the early stages of talking with partners and our customers to brainstorm ways of testing mechanisms that would result in conversions to legal consumption through enforcement activity. These sorts of proactive ideas really exciting for us.”

With expansion of its backend system to support global scaling and design revisions in its client dashboard Irdeto is also putting in place the processing power to continue adding functionalities. “Instead of looking at each threat individually, with the full suite we’ve developed we can have a broader integrated effect on the piracy landscape,” Low says. “We collect so much data, we need to make the best use of that.”

As it does so, Irdeto’s tie-ins with organizations not only on the advertising side but elsewhere could eventually move antitheft activities to a more concerted level of international coordination. “The data we’re collecting and processing is putting us well on the path to making that possible,” Low says. “MPAA (the Motion Picture Association of America), for example, is an organization that’s clearly interested in this work. We’re working with MPAA vendors, focusing on a complete suite of solutions and how to scale those solutions to everyone’s benefit.”