SAM 2010: Content Protection a Must in Today’s Web-centric Era

While burgeoning avenues like the Internet and mobile represent valuable new markets for sports-video organizations, they also pose a serious threat that costs broadcasters, leagues, and teams billions of dollars every year. Piracy and illegal distribution of this video online forces rightsholders to seek out strategies for protecting their valuable content. SVG’s fourth-annual Sports Asset Management forum on July 20 at the PGA Tour Entertainment facility in St. Augustine, FL, brought together three of today’s elite content-protection providers — Civolution, Peer Media Technologies, and Vobile — to discuss their anti-piracy and content-security methods.

“How are people consuming content, and what are they doing with it after it gets out there?” said Sam Bahun, senior account executive for Peer Media Technologies. “Capturing this info and providing it to content owners as near real time as possible is a must in this industry. Web is a big threat for the sports industry. When new files come out, swarms of people begin downloading — legally and illegally. As those swarms shift, we follow them and track their activity.”

Two Digital Methods
Among the most popular techniques currently used for online-content protection are digital fingerprinting and watermarking.

Digital watermarking is the process of embedding a unique and imperceptible ID in the video or audio stream. It can be tailored to the type of media or file format used for the video as well as customized to a content owner’s workflow or distribution model. Content providers can create an unlimited number of watermarks, depending on their needs.

With video fingerprinting, software identifies, extracts, and then compresses characteristic components of a video file, enabling that video to be uniquely identified by its fingerprint. It does not rely on any additional information to the video stream. In addition, a reference video fingerprint can be created at any point from any copy of the video.

“A lot of people use these terms interchangeably, and they’re not,” said Tom Miller, director of sales at Civolution. “They’re both unique technologies, and they both have different advantages. You can’t remove a fingerprint because there’s nothing there. Both have features that make them ideal for certain situations.”

Storage Sites a Growing Concern
Cyberlockers, Websites that store large amounts of content and allow users to post video, have become a growing hub for pirated content.

Peer Media Technologies recently conducted a one-week scan of the Web and identified more than 150,000 illegal live-video links to FIFA World Cup, NBA Finals, Wimbledon, NASCAR, and PGA events. The sites that post this video are supported in large part by ad revenue.

“The pirates often aren’t the sites themselves; it’s the individuals that post to these sites,” says Vobile President Larry Meli. “It’s a crime with many faces. These sites take legal content and put advertising around it. But they also put ads around illegal content. If I’m a content owner, then I’m pissed off.”

Peer Media uses a variety of techniques to combat these sites and users.

The PMT Web-piracy solution scans forums, blogs, and Websites to identify potentially infringing Web links. It then processes each infringing link to determine where the infringing file is being hosted. After the file-hosting site is determined, a takedown request is issued automatically. To confirm compliance with the request, the WebScanner Service monitors those links for which a takedown request has been issued in order. According to PMT, most sites want to avoid trouble and quickly remove the content.

Peer Media also creates fake files that illegal users will spend hours attempting to download. The hope is that these users will abandon their efforts to illegally download this video in favor of a legitimate source.

Resistance Remains, Despite Piracy
According to Vobile, piracy currently costs the U.S. film-entertainment industry $20 billion a year. However, content-protection providers continue to face resistance from many content owners.

“It’s just a resistance to anything that’s new,” Meli observed. “I started selling cable TV 35 years ago and saw resistance. You see where that went. Trying to get people to invest in something new takes a great deal of time, sweat, and money. You just need to find a way that is safe and successful and how to monetize that.”

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