Easy to use via regular web browsers, modified Kodi installations, and fully-fledged IPTV services, streaming is now in the living rooms of millions of people. As such it is viewed as a threat to subscription and PPV TV providers worldwide, especially those offering live content such as sporting events.
Pirate services obtain content by capturing and restreaming feeds obtained from official sources, often from something as humble as a regular subscriber account. These streams can then be redistributed by thousands of other sites and services, many of which are easily found using a simple search.
Dedicated anti-piracy companies track down these streams and send takedown notices to the hosts carrying them. Sometimes this means that streams go down quickly but in other cases hosts can take a while to respond or may not comply at all. Networking company Cisco thinks it has found a solution to these problems.
The company’s claims center around its Streaming Piracy Prevention (SPP) platform, a system that aims to take down illicit streams in real-time. Perhaps most interestingly, Cisco says SPP functions without needing to send takedown notices to companies hosting illicit streams.
“Traditional takedown mechanisms such as sending legal notices (commonly referred to as ‘DMCA notices’) are ineffective where pirate services have put in place infrastructure capable of delivering video at tens and even hundreds of gigabits per second, as in essence there is nobody to send a notice to,” the company explains.
“Escalation to infrastructure providers works to an extent, but the process is often slow as the pirate services will likely provide the largest revenue source for many of the platform providers in question.”
To overcome these problems Cisco says it has partnered with Friend MTS (FMTS), a UK-based company specializing in content-protection.
Among its services, FMTS offers Distribution iD, which allows content providers to pinpoint which of their downstream distributors’ platforms are a current source of content leaks.
“Robust and unique watermarks are embedded into each distributor feed for identification. The code is invisible to the viewer but can be recovered by our specialist detector software,” FMTS explains.
“Once infringing content has been located, the service automatically extracts the watermark for accurate distributor identification.”
Friend MTS also offers Advanced Subscriber iDentification (ASiD), a system that is able to identify legitimate subscribers who are subsequently re-transmitting content online.
According to Cisco, FMTS feeds the SPP service with pirate video streams it finds online. These are tracked back to the source of the leak (such as a particular distributor or specific pay TV subscriber account) which can then be shut-down in real time.
“The process is fully automated, ensuring a timely response to incidents of piracy. Gone are the days of sending a legal notice and waiting to see if anyone will answer,” Cisco says.
“SPP acts without the need to involve or gain cooperation from any third parties, enabling an unmatched level of cross-device retransmission prevention and allowing service providers to take back control of their channels, to maximize their revenue.”
Friends MTS and Cisco believe the problem is significant. During the last month alone the company says it uncovered 12,000 HD channels on pirate services that were being sourced from Pay TV providers.
How much of dent the companies will be able to make in this market will remain to be seen but not having to rely on the efficiency of takedown requests certainly has the potential to shift the balance of power.