Grabbing a workprint or DVD screener of an Oscar nominee or a yet to be aired on TV show makes the Internet bubble with excitement. But for the studios and companies behind the products, it presents their worst nightmare.
Despite all the takedown efforts known to man, once content appears, there’s no putting the genie back into the bottle.
With this in mind, the solution doesn’t lie with reactionary efforts such as Internet disconnections, site-blocking and similar measures, but better hygiene while content is still in production or being prepared for distribution. It’s something the MPAA hopes to address with a brand new program designed to bring the security of third-party vendors up to scratch.
The Trusted Partner Network (TPN) is the brainchild of the MPAA and the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA), a worldwide forum advocating the innovative and responsible delivery and storage of entertainment content.
TPN is being touted as a global industry-wide film and television content protection initiative which will help companies prevent leaks, breaches, and hacks of their customers’ movies and television shows prior to their intended release.
“Content is now created by a growing ecosystem of third-party vendors, who collaborate with varying degrees of security,” TPN explains.
“This has escalated the security threat to the entertainment industry’s most prized asset, its content. The TPN program seeks to raise security awareness, preparedness, and capabilities within our industry.”
The TPN will establish a “single benchmark of minimum security preparedness” for vendors whose details will be available via centralized and global “trusted partner” database. The TPN will replace security assessments programs already in place at the MPAA and CDSA.
While content owners and vendors are still able to conduct their own security assessments on an “as-needed” basis, the aim is for the TPN to reduce the number of assessments carried out while assisting in identifying vulnerabilities. The pool of “trusted partners” is designed to help all involved understand and meet the challenges of leaks, whether that’s movie, TV show, or associated content.
While joining the TPN program is voluntary, there’s a strong suggestion that becoming involved in the program is in vendors’ best interests. Being able to carry the TPN logo will be an asset to doing business with others involved in the scheme, it’s suggested.
Once in, vendors will need to hire a TPN-approved assessor to carry out an initial audit of their supply chain and best practices, which in turn will need to be guided by the MPAA’s existing content security guidelines.
“Vendors will hire a Qualified Assessor from the TPN database and will schedule their assessment and manage the process via the secure online platform,” TPN says, noting that vendors will cover their own costs unless an assessment is carried out at the request of a content owner.
The TPN explains that members of the scheme aren’t passed or failed in respect of their security preparedness. However, there’s an expectation they will be expected to come up to scratch and prove that with a subsequent positive report from a TPN approved assessor. Assessors themselves will also be assessed via the TPN Qualified Assessor Program.
By imposing MPAA best practices upon partner companies, it’s hoped that some if not all of the major leaks that have plagued the industry over the past several years will be prevented in future. Whether that’s the usual DVD screener leaks, workprints, scripts or other content, it’s believed the TPN should be able to help in some way, although the former might be a more difficult nut to crack.
There’s no doubting that the problem TPN aims to address is serious. In 2017 alone, hackers and other individuals obtained and then leaked episodes of Orange is the New Black, unreleased ABC content, an episode of Game of Thrones sourced from India and scripts from the same show. Even blundering efforts managed to make their mark.
“Creating the films and television shows enjoyed by audiences around the world increasingly requires a network of specialized vendors and technicians,” says MPAA chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin.
“That’s why maintaining high security standards for all third-party operations — from script to screen — is such an important part of preventing the theft of creative works and ultimately protects jobs and the health of our vibrant creative economy.”
According to TPN, the first class of TPN Assessors was recruited and tested last month while beta-testing of key vendors will begin in April. The full program will roll out in June 2018.