We often get questions about FV Video Vault DRM.
- Why is it a separate product from FV Player Pro?
- Doesn’t FV Player Pro already include DRM, with watermarks, encrypted HLS and signed URLs?
Yes, the copy protection in FV Player Pro is pretty good. Industry standard.1 This should be enough for most publishers. If you aren’t experiencing and have no reason to expect piracy or most of your value proposition is based in membership features and not video, FV Player Pro’s built-in DRM should be enough for you.
FV Video Vault DRM is at another level though. It’s a multi-level approach combining automated account blocking, watermarking, server-side monitoring and silent surveillance of file-sharing sites.
FV Video Vault DRM: Cut Pirates legs off at the knees
Well not literally. Take their accounts away in real time before the pirates have a chance to steal your content.
There’s a certain sequence of actions involved in cracking video, which are different from how viewers view content. By tracking this behaviour and blocking accounts who show suspicious behaviour in real time.
The danger here is false positives. Blocking legitimate users does not make friends. Over time, we’ve been able to reduce the number of false positives to just a couple every month, while blocking dozens of genuine pirates from even getting their feet wet.
Once the pirate is in, there’s more trouble. With persistence, the pirate will be able to capture your video, at least by screen capture.2 The trick here is to ensure that there’s invisible watermarking s/he won’t find. It’s Russian dolls here, you can layer as many layers as you like.
Low hanging fruit is what sets pirates at ease. Give them two or three DRM blocks to overcome. S/he is at this point at least able to screen capture without visible watermarks. But you as a content provider will be able (with some difficulty) find out who leaked the content. At this point, you need a quick turnaround to cut off the compromised account quickly.
This means monitoring sharing of your content. If you’ve experienced substantial piracy, you probably already know at which forums and venues your fans/pirates hang out. You should be there undercover and watch closely new threads about your content.
Cutting a pirate off once is not enough but keep at it.
Of course for a few months, the pirates will be able to share credentials and sign up again and again with different payment methods. After a month or two, any pool of co-operating pirates will run out of unique payment methods and the pirates are on the outside looking in. We’ve seen pirates go and sign up again and behave as legitimate users once they’ve figure out
Or the sharing becomes private via DM, which slows down the spread and make sure there’s no massive repository of a publisher’s videos findable on the open internet.
Biggest Danger: Lurking, Slow-moving Pirates
What can really cause trouble for a video publisher is if the pirates crack your DRM but hold off sharing content for a month or two while they gather a full archive. Content creators who don’t have a single library but continually add new content are in a much better position to fight off the “sack the library” crowd.
This is the risk of DRM. At some point, it will be cracked and a substantial amount of a publisher’s content will go out in the wild. Nothing can bring it back.
Fortunately most pirates don’t have the patience to wait two or three months to start sharing. People with good impulse control mostly pay for their content. Hence it’s usually possible to cut pirates off early. Losing a few episodes should not be fatal to any content creator, a few episodes in the wild could even be considered good advertising if your videos please their target audiences.
Monitoring for automated routines
Server monitoring is not directly DRM but it’s another great method to kneecap pirates. Monitoring one’s server for strange consumption patterns is relatively cheap as it can be automated. That way content-sucking bots can be shut down quickly.
Monitoring consumption patterns is very different from the first technique of automatically suspending pirates’ accounts in real time for directly suspicious activity. Consumption patterns are even easier to spot. There’s no way a real user stays up 24/7 glued to his or her computer for days at a time watching two or three streams at the same time.
Loose lips sink ships. One of the best ways to protect your content is not to tell the pirates how you intend to protect it. The reason I haven’t written publicly on advanced FV DRM techniques before has partly been to avoid issuing a roadmap to pirates. I’d like to add more detail to the article above but that already maps a trail which is better left off map.
Security by obscurity is not a solution in itself but printing one’s battle plans on the front page of the daily paper is not good OpSec.
Keeping the price of admission high helps keeps pirates out. FV DRM involves a minimal cost of $2000/year. Most pirates don’t want to spend that to crack a niche DRM solution. WideVine goes further – the minimum price of admission is $50,000 just to see the documentation.
Unique DRM signature
Foliovision are not the only DRM provider who use uniqueness as a way to block pirates. Nitsan Baider of Synmedia explains the concept of unique environments well:
each client’s code is highly protected against reverse engineering, differs from client to client, and changes over time. This means that even if a hacker is able to break a client’s code, it is not scalable, as each code works differently. Ultimately, attempting to break any additional client code would be just as difficult as breaking the first one, making the whole process extremely cost-ineffective for pirates.
Unique ID’s and making footprints unique is built into FV Video Vault DRM. For publishers who wish to build even more unique hurdles for pirates, we can do that. We can even obscure the signature of our player.
The downside for us is that as each environment is genuinely different, it takes time to create the truly unique barriers. For many publishers, it’s worth the trouble and expense to create a unique DRM profile. Foliovision Video Vault DRM is certainly a factor less expensive than Synmedia whose clients include Sky, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Czech Television and Vodafone.
It doesn’t help publishers if stopping piracy costs more than the revenue lost to piracy in the first place.
Foliovision Video Vault DRM pricing varies from $2000/year to $5000/year depending on the complexity of defences you choose and the determination of your pirates. Most publishers will be well-served by the $2000/year flat fee. Our least expensive competitors charge closer to $2000/month and many offer less protection than FV Video Vault DRM.
We are determined to make video publishing, video hosting and video DRM affordable to small and medium-sized publishers by leveraging open-source and robust scalable service providers like Digital Ocean, Linode and BunnyCDN.3
We can help you affordably reduce any video piracy to a trickle with our multi-pronged anti-piracy system.
The DRM included in FV Player Pro includes watermarking and HLS encrypted and one time keys. Casual pirates will struggle to make copies of your content, but pirates with developer experience can use good software tools to pull unwatermarked streams from the server. FV DRM cuts off the ability of pirates to grab copies of your media directly from your server or CDN. Screen capture can still be done but there will be watermarks in those captured streams. A strong anti-piracy publisher will be able to cut off his or her members who illicitly share content very quickly. ↩
I can screen capture any Netflix film in HD 1080p even on a recent Mac computer running macOS Monterey using Firefox and Screenflick. Netflix is protected by WideVine. Netflix seems to be using our own technique of invisible watermarking to track users who do share content with Cinavia embeded in every stream from 2013. ↩
Alec has been helping businesses succeed online since 2000. Alec is an SEM expert with a background in advertising, as a former Head of Television for Grey Moscow and Senior Television Producer for Bates, Saatchi and Saatchi Russia.