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DRM Restrictions for Videos & Digital Assets: Explained

Debarpita Banerjee Published on : 08 February 2024

In the last blog on Video DRM, we explained what video DRM is, and how it works. In this blog, we will explain how DRM restrictions help protect videos and other digital assets. 

Just to put it in perspective, Digital Rights Management is not limited to protecting video content only. It can be used to protect any form of intellectual property, including Audio, downloadables, and more! When implemented, DRM can prevent copying, printing, or even illegal sharing of such digital resources. And to do so, there are certain restrictions in place. 

Today, we will navigate through all those restrictions, trying to understand their role in content protection and the benefits they offer to the content creators. So, let’s get started!

Understanding Video DRM Solutions

Before we proceed forward, let’s just give you a brief synopsis of what DRM solutions mean, starting with Video DRM solutions.          

A video DRM solution, short for Digital Rights Management, is a technology used to protect and control access to your video content. It essentially acts like a digital lock for your videos, ensuring they’re only accessible to authorized users and devices.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Encryption: Your video content is encrypted using a specific DRM key, which is specific to the applied DRM system like Widevine, Fairplay, or PlayReady. This makes the video unplayable without a decryption key.
  2. Licensing: Authorized users purchase or subscribe to your content and are issued a license for using the decryption key. 
  3. Content Delivery: The encrypted video is delivered through a secure channel, typically a streaming platform or content delivery network (CDN).
  4. Decryption and Playback: When an authorized user tries to watch the video, their device checks with the DRM system to verify their license. If they have a valid license, the decryption key is downloaded and used to decrypt the video, allowing them to watch it.

By encrypting your videos, you make it much harder for them to be illegally copied and distributed. Hence, DRM helps in protecting your video content from piracy. But, videos are not the only form of content that DRM protects. DRM can be used for all forms of digital assets. Let’s talk about it in our next section. 

Understanding DRM for Digital Assets

DRM can be used for multiple digital assets, including:

  • Downloadables like eBooks and Whitepapers
  • Software and applications
  • Images and graphics
  • Music and Audio

And more…

E-books and Documents
  • Encrypted files: Documents can be encrypted using DRM technology, allowing access only when a user has the proper decryption key. This key might be tied to a specific device or account, preventing unauthorized sharing.
  • Watermarking: Digital watermarks embed invisible information into the document, identifying the owner and potentially even tracking who shared it illegally.
  • Copy-and-paste restrictions: DRM can disable text selection and copying, making it harder to plagiarize or pirate the content.

 

Software and Applications
  • License activation: Software often uses DRM to bind the license to a specific device or user, preventing unauthorized installations or usage.
  • Feature restrictions: DRM can control access to specific features within an application, based on the user’s license or subscription level.
  • Time-limited access: Trial versions of software might use DRM to restrict usage to a predefined period, encouraging users to purchase the full version.

 

Images and Graphics
  • Resolution control: DRM can limit the resolution or size at which an image can be exported, preventing high-quality versions from circulating illegally.
  • Embedding tracking information: Images can contain hidden information identifying the owner and potentially even tracking their distribution online.
  • Watermark protection: Similar to documents, watermarks can be embedded in images to deter unauthorized use.

 

Music and Audio
  • Encrypted files: Similar to videos, music files can be encrypted with DRM, requiring authorized players or services for playback.
  • Track limitations: Digital subscriptions might use DRM to restrict the number of songs users can download or stream per month.
  • Offline listening controls: DRM can limit the number of devices on which offline playback is allowed, preventing users from sharing their accounts with others.

 

Why is DRM Important for Videos and Digital Assets?  

Digital Rights Management (DRM) plays a crucial role in protecting videos and other digital assets for several reasons, including:

  • Protection of Intellectual Property
  • Securing your revenues
  • Controlling content distribution

And many more…

Protection of Intellectual Property
  • DRM encrypts and controls access to content, making it difficult for unauthorized individuals to copy, share, or distribute it illegally. This safeguards the intellectual property rights of creators and producers, preventing losses due to piracy.
  • DRM allows content owners to control how and when their work is released and consumed. This can create a sense of exclusivity and attract viewers willing to pay for access to premium content.

 

Securing Your Revenues
  • By limiting unauthorized access, DRM ensures that viewers who consume the content do so through legitimate channels, generating revenue for creators and distributors through subscriptions, purchases, or advertising.
  • Strong DRM protections give content owners more leverage in negotiating licensing deals with platforms and distributors. This can potentially lead to higher revenue shares and fairer compensation for their work.

 

Controlling Content Distribution
  • DRM allows content owners to limit access based on geographical location, complying with licensing agreements and preventing unauthorized distribution in certain regions.
  • DRM can restrict editing, modification, or downscaling of content, preserving its original quality and integrity as intended by the creator.
  • DRM enables flexible access models like rentals, tiered subscriptions, or limited previews, allowing content owners to offer varied options to consumers.

Apart from that, some DRM systems incorporate security features that can help prevent malware from being embedded in digital assets. Overall, DRM can be used to store and archive digital assets securely, ensuring their longevity and accessibility for future generations.                

Which Restrictions are Implemented by DRM?        

DRM implementations can restrict various aspects of digital content usage, depending on the specific technology and the content owner’s goals. 

Some of the common restrictions imposed by DRM include:

  • Restriction on content access and distribution
  • Restriction on content usage
  • Time-based restrictions

 

Restriction on Access and Distribution
  • Device limitations: Content might only be playable on specific devices or platforms authorized by the DRM system, preventing playback on unauthorized devices.
  • Activation limits: The number of devices a single user can activate the content on might be limited, preventing sharing with multiple users.
  • Geographical restrictions: Content might be accessible only in certain countries or regions based on licensing agreements or distribution limitations.
  • Offline access restrictions: Some DRM systems limit the number of devices on which users can download content for offline playback, preventing widespread sharing through downloads.

 

Restriction on Content Usage
  • Copying and sharing restrictions: DRM can prevent copying or sharing of the content, even within authorized devices or accounts, depending on the specific license terms.
  • Printing and screen capture limitations: DRM might disable the printing of content or capturing screenshots, preventing unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.
  • Resolution and quality control: Some DRM systems restrict the resolution or quality at which content can be exported, preventing high-fidelity versions from circulating illegally.
  • Feature restrictions: In software and applications, DRM can limit access to specific features based on the user’s license level, encouraging upgrades or purchases.

 

Time-based Restrictions
  • Expiration dates: Some content might have an expiration date after which it becomes inaccessible, even for authorized users. This is common in rentals or temporary access models.
  • Subscription limitations: Streaming services or subscription-based content might limit access to specific content based on the user’s subscription tier or expiration date.      

         

Other Ways of Protecting Your Videos and Digital Assets

Apart from DRM, there are a few other ways of protecting your videos and digital assets, which do not use any specific encryption method at the backend. These methods include:

  • Dynamic watermarking
  • Forensic watermarking
  • Geo-blocking

 

Dynamic Watermarking

In dynamic watermarking, a watermark is inserted in a video that can change based on different criteria. It is different from static watermarking where the watermark remains fixed for all content at all times. While static watermarks remain unchanged, dynamic watermarks adapt and change depending on context or viewer information. 

Here’s how dynamic watermarking works:
  1. Context-Based Information: Dynamic watermarks embed information that changes based on specific criteria, such as:
    • Viewer identity: The viewer’s name, email address, or IP address can be displayed directly on the content.
    • Time and date: The watermark can display the time and date the content was accessed by each viewer.
    • Location: If relevant, the viewer’s location can be included in the watermark.
    • Content variation: For multiple copies of the same content, unique identifiers can be embedded in each copy to track distribution.

 

  1. Adaptability and visibility: Some dynamic watermarks move or change position subtly over time, making them even harder to remove from screenshots or screen recordings.

 

Benefits of Dynamic Watermarking

Dynamic watermarking offers multiple additional benefits that static watermarking fails to offer, such as:

  • Enhanced Security: Personalized watermarks restrict unauthorized sharing as the viewer’s identity is directly linked to the content.
  • Traceability and Accountability: Tracking leaked content becomes much easier due to the unique identifiers embedded in each copy. The admin can analyze the leaked copy to find out the details of the pirates.
  • Make Piracy Difficult: Dynamic watermarks are extremely difficult to remove without damaging the content, making them strong evidence in copyright infringement cases. Hence, pirates usually avoid content with dynamic watermarks.
  • Flexible Control: Content owners can define the specific information embedded in the watermark and adjust its visibility based on their needs.

 

Applications of Dynamic Watermarking

Dynamic watermarks can be used to secure multiple digital assets like:

  1. Sensitive Documents: Contracts, financial reports, and other confidential documents can be secured with personalized watermarks to prevent unauthorized sharing.
  2. Video Content: Movies, lectures, and other copyrighted videos can be protected from piracy by embedding dynamic watermarks with viewer information.
  3. Software Licensing: Dynamic watermarks can be used to enforce software licensing by linking the license to the user’s identity embedded in the watermark.
  4. Educational Materials: Online courses and ebooks can be protected from unauthorized distribution by embedding dynamic watermarks with student information.

 

Forensic Watermarking

Forensic watermarking embeds a hidden, imperceptible mark within a multimedia file. This mark acts like a unique fingerprint, identifying the ownership and distribution chain of the content. Imagine it like a mark that is not visible through naked eyes

Here’s How it Works:
  • Generation: A specific watermark is generated, containing information like the owner’s identity, timestamps, or even usage rights. This mark is then inserted into the digital file using sophisticated algorithms.
  • Embedding Methods: There are various ways to embed watermarks, depending on the type of media and desired robustness. Some common methods include:
    • Spread Spectrum: The watermark signal is spread across the audio or video frequency spectrum, making it difficult to remove without degrading the original content.
    • Perceptual Masking: The watermark is hidden in areas of the file where the human eye or ear is less sensitive, like high-frequency sounds or noise textures in images.
  • Detection: When needed, specialized software can extract and decode the hidden watermark from the file. This reveals the embedded information, helping trace the source of a leak or unauthorized distribution.

 

Benefits of Forensic Watermarking

Forensic Watermarking offers multiple benefits, like:

  • Knowing their content is trackable discourages potential leakers and pirates.
  • Watermarks help identify the source of leaked content, aiding investigations and legal action.
  • They verify the authenticity of digital media, preventing forgeries or unauthorized modifications.
  • Watermarked files can serve as legal evidence in copyright infringement cases.

 

Applications of Forensic Watermarking

Forensic watermarking is used for multiple purposes, including:

  • Protecting copyrighted content: Movies, music, software, and other creative works can be safeguarded against piracy.
  • Securing confidential documents: Sensitive information like financial records or legal contracts can be tracked if leaked.
  • Brand protection: Companies can embed watermarks in logos or marketing materials to identify unauthorized use.
  • Monitoring media distribution: Tracking how content is shared online can help understand audience engagement and prevent unauthorized rebroadcasting.

 

Geo-Blocking

Geo-blocking refers to the practice of restricting access to online content based on the user’s geographic location. Think of it like a digital border patrol, controlling which websites and services you can and cannot access depending on where you are in the world.

Here’s how it works:
  1. Location identification: The first step for geo-blocking is figuring out where you are. This can be done in several ways, like:
    1. IP address: This is the most common method. Your IP address is like your online address, and it often reveals your general location (city or country).
    2. GPS: If you’re using a mobile device, GPS can pinpoint your exact location.
  2. Content restriction: Once your location is known, the service can decide whether to grant you access to the content. If the content is not licensed for your region, you might see a message like “This content is unavailable in your location” or be redirected to a different page.

 

Reasons for Geo-Blocking

There are several reasons why companies might geo-block content:

  • Copyright laws: Different countries have different copyright laws, and companies might not have the rights to show certain content in all regions.
  • Licensing agreements: Content creators might have licensing agreements with distributors in specific regions, restricting access elsewhere.
  • Technical limitations: Sometimes, technical limitations like different broadcast formats or bandwidth constraints might prevent content from being delivered in certain regions.
  • Government regulations: Some governments might restrict access to certain content for political or cultural reasons.

 

To Sum Up

DRM restrictions can be used for all forms of digital assets, like videos, audio, documents, ebooks, and more! When used, they impose multiple restrictions on who can access the content, and how can they use them. When DRM is enabled, only authorized devices and users can access the content. No one can record screens or take screenshots of the content. It makes piracy extremely difficult. 

Hence, DRM plays a crucial role in fighting against piracy. That is why, most video entrepreneurs are now looking to compulsorily enable DRM and other content protection methods on their video hosting and streaming platforms. 

Presenting the Most Secured Video Hosting Solution – Muvi Flex!

If you are wondering which content security tool would be perfect for your business, my suggestion is, why don’t you apply all of them – including multi-DRM, dynamic and forensic watermarking, and geoblocking together? 

And if you are wondering where you would get a video hosting platform that offers all of them, then let me introduce you to Muvi Flex – the most secure video hosting solution!

With Muvi Flex, you get built-in Multi-DRM, all types of watermarking (static, dynamic, and forensic), geo-blocking, screen-recording protection, PCI compliance, SSL Certificate, Server Side Security, and Firewall. 

Apart from security, you can also enjoy 500+ industry-leading features, including VMAP Ads, customizable HTML5 video player, subtitles, HLS output, social publishing, and many more! So, why wait? Sign up with Muvi Flex to start your 14-day free trial today! 

video hosting

FAQs

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It is a tool to protect your video and other forms of digital content from copyright infringement, piracy, and attempts of misuse.

Some of the common types of DRM restrictions for videos include:

  • Restrictions of screen recording and screenshots
  • Restrictions from unauthorized access
  • Restrictions on access via unauthorized devices

And many more…

DRM does not negatively impact the end-user experience. In fact, it increases multi-level security, by restricting unauthorized access. 

Apart from DRM, some other methods of protecting digital content include:

  • Dynamic watermarking
  • Forensic watermarking
  • Geo-blocking

Written by: Debarpita Banerjee

Debarpita is a Content Writer with Muvi. With around 2 years of experience in content creation, she has worked across industries like SaaS, EdTech, eLearning, AR-VR, and Metaverse. She believes in delivering content that can be of some value to the readers. In her free time, she likes to try her hand at website and app development.

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