How To Copy Protect Live Video Stream

Copy protecting a live video stream as opposed to protecting video files requires a different approach and very few of those purporting to be experts on the subject don't have much of a clue. A recent web search on the topic of "How to copy protect live video stream" returns a list of services claiming to provide DRM protection, encryption, etc and they have all used the same list of features to advertise their offering using features and headings that they copied from everyone else.

Intermingled with ads and seo-orientated blogs you will also see articles posted by self acclaimed experts posting on MediaCollege or StackOverflow claiming that a) it is not possible, because b) anything accessible to a computer can be copied, and c) please don't research any further because I like video entertainment to be free.

Protecting Live Video Streams vs Protecting Video Files

Video files are static files that can be stored anywhere, distributed by email, download and embedded on web pages. Contrary to what today's web design experts (those who cannot live without WordPress) believe, that viewing online from a page can be more secure than viewing on the computer desktop because when the user reads online the video is not downloaded. That unfortunately is a gross misconception shared by experts who have no idea of how it works at all. Because in all cases, the video is downloaded to the user's computer. The only difference being that saving to the desktop stores the video in a location known the user that is easily accessible. Whereas when viewing online, the video is saved to the web browser cache. Nobody ever views anything "online". All data is downloaded and read locally on the user's computer.

The next oxymoron that they push is that "when live streaming, nothing is saved". If that is the case, then how do they explain that the video stream is downloaded in chunks, decrypted and then displayed while the next chunk is being downloaded and decrypted. Do they expect us to believe that it just magically appears like Tinkerbell from Disneyland? And just how do they explain how one can slide the progress bar back to watch again if no data was ever stored?

Live Video Stream Requirements

Since YouTube became free to anyone wanting to live stream from their mobile phone, the complexity and technical requirements to stream live video is easily overlooked, as with the exorbitant costs to the stream provider. YouTube can provide the service for free because they have monetized it with paid advertising. But when it comes time to procure streaming that can be adequately controlled for a pay-to-see service, reality unfolds and services like YouTube will most likely be useless because one cannot copy protect or rights protect anything published for public access.

Live video streams are just what the name implies. To live stream any event such as a sports match or classroom session, a video camera is required to feed the video data to encoding software which in turn sends the video feed to a media server. Not just any web server but a "media server" which is specifically designed to process live feeds and broadcast them to multiple connected users. That media server will also adjust the quality and frame speed to compensate for slower internet connections. This is known as "buffering".

Live Video Stream Data Costs

Live streaming of video is data intensive. Some media services will charge for all data while the more ethical, and the ones used by professionals will only charge for your uploaded data plus a backchannel fee. So if uploading at 300k/sec you can expect to pay for 1 GB per hour. Data prices can vary between 0.01 cents per MB and 10 cents per MB depending on the tier of your streaming service provider.

But that is not where it ends because although anyone downloading a file or watching a stream is paying for that data via their own ISP, your service provider still has to pay what is known as "backchannel". Data does not only flow one way across the Internet. When a user requests a file their computer sends a request and the server responds by delivering a packet of data. When that packet is received by the user another request is sent and so on until the whole download is completed. Subsequently to download 1 MB of data about 10% of data is sent as requests.

Now this is the bit that most are unaware of thanks to enjoying free streaming via YouTube. If one has 100 subscribers watching a live video stream and they are each downloading at 300k/sec, the bandwidth needed to cater for that scenario is a total of 30 Mb/sec. Multiply that by 1,000 users and you may begin to understand that live streaming on a paid service can be extremely expensive. Also, I don't actually recall if these figures are megabits or megabytes as it can be confusing when users talk about megabytes when IT services actually rate in megabits.

Copy Protection Software For Live Video Streams

If you are wanting to copy protect your live video stream, you will no doubt find a lot services offering DRM protected streams which is not actually copy protection at all. DRM does not prevent copy. However it does prevent unauthorized access by password or IP address restrictions. Also the custom video player that they may prescribe can be a proprietary design to cater for their specific encryption and monitoring.

The Remaining Options For A Live Video Stream Service

If you can create the code for an embedded player on a web page that can provide the only access a live stream on a free service like YouTube, then you are already half way to copy protecting that live stream. But if you cannot prevent direct access to that live stream by anyone who pleases, then you will need to either setup your own media server or use a paid video streaming service. Windows Media Server is free and runs on most Windows servers. Media servers for Apache and Linux servers are available but they start getting more complex and more limited.

Either way, by deciding which way to go, either using your own media server or using a paid media service, you are also halfway to copy protecting your live stream It is that decision as to what you can use and how that governs how you copy protect it.

Copy Protection For Your Live Video Stream

By now you have a server to stream from and a video player than can be embedded onto a web page. If the video player plugin prescribed by your streaming service can be modified to remove nay save and fullscreen options, all you need now is the copy protection software. But first let us look at some features that may be provided by your streaming service:

"Dynamic Watermarks, Expiration Controls, Open Limits, IP Address Restrictions, plus a Secure HTML5 Player."

And that is where the protection provided by your streaming hosts ends. Passwords can be shared. Watermarks can be cropped, removed and/or overlaid. The screen can be captured and recorded by a plethora of screen recording software, many of which can retrieve the video data from browser cache and/or computer memory.

Now all that needs to be done is to close those avenues of exploit and you will have the most secure protection for a live video stream ever imagined, and to do that we use the ArtistScope Site Protection Software (ASPS). With ASPS you have the option of adding the following protection features to the web page that displays your video:

  • Prevent all copy including PrintScreen and screen recording software.
  • Prevent view of page source to locate media resources.
  • Prevent data extraction from web browser cache and memory.
  • Prevent access to the stream from unauthorized applications.
  • Prevent access by unauthorized users.
  • Prevent password and account sharing.
  • Total control over all aspects with immediate effect.
  • Supported across all OS including Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
Nothing can be exploited, saved or copied in any way short of standing back and recording the computer screen. Data cannot be extracted even by using packet sniffing software. Each use is uniquely identified by Computer ID which can be used to validate account access, thus preventing user accounts from being shared by others, viewed from unapproved locations, etc.

Obligation Free Consultation For Your Live Video Stream Protection

The ArtistScope team were the first to develop copy protection and today cater for all types of media. Their experience in video streaming is most extensive, stemming from the provision of their own server farms and media servers on most continents, and the development of live scoreboard software for cue sports.

Today we just do "copy protection" and are here to advise and assist with your project.