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How to protect video files from copying

Tatiana Davydova
Tatiana Davydova
Senior Technical Writer at StarForce Technologies
23 Jul 2018

One of the most frequent requests that our company receives is how to protect video from copying. Our clients (creators of video and audio content that represents intellectual property) want to control how their files are distributed, to manage access to the files, to protect them from copying and to prevent screen recording.

To solve these problems, StarForce offers two options for protecting video from copying. In both cases, you can protect audio and video files of most of the common formats.

1 Protecting on the SFContent.com website. A quick and cheap way to protect files.
2 Protecting through free Protection Studio. You can customize the player and protect both media files and documents.

To prevent screen recording, we use the following protection methods:

Watermarks (a text, a serial number, or an image);
Adding questions to video;
Blocking the grabbers (the publisher can disable the feature);
'Black Box' technology.

Adding questions is only possible when you protect the files in Protection Studio. Other methods apply to both options (protecting on the SFContent.com website and through Protection Studio).

Protecting files from copying, controlling their distribution and managing access to files is implemented by means of encryption, the use of the protected file container, and embedded custom DRM. This allows you to restrict the use of the protected video in different ways (specify the number of runs, operation time, regional restrictions, etc.). Only the user who purchased the license can run the files. The license can be:

A serial number for activation. The files bind to a certain computer and work only on this computer.
An optical disc with the protected files. The disc should be in the drive of the computer for the files to run.
A USB drive with the protected files. The USB drive should be in the USB port of the computer for the files to run.

Protecting on the SFContent.com website

This copy protection solution allows the customers to protect all types of video and audio files quickly and easily. We recommend this method if you protect small video and audio files and do not intend to change the interface of the player. To play back the protected files, a dedicated player developed by StarForce is used. The player has a standard interface and can play back unprotected files as well.

The maximum size of a file is 2GB.

For a test workspace, the total size of files in an archive is 4GB. If you want to protect files with the total size more than 4GB, protect them separately and then integrate them into a single playlist*.

You can do this in two ways:

Drag the required files to the playlist area in the player and save them as a playlist.
Edit the playlist file (playlist.sfm3u). To do so, open playlist.sfm3u of any of the protected files in Notepad. Copy the contents of all the playlists (the playlist.sfm3u files) of other protected files to it. Save the changes.

Files that you protect in a single session are added to a playlist automatically. The archive you download after protection contains the protected files and the playlist (playlist.sfm3u).

You can implement protection in two ways:

The player is included in the archive with the protected files.
The player is not included in the archive. Instead, the users download it from the website.

The customer selects the protection method when he/she creates a protection project (a workspace) on the SFContent.com website. Pros and cons of both options are listed in the table below.

Protection option Pros Cons
The player is provided along with the protected files
  • The end users can run the playback from the folder with the protected files.
  • Watermarks are supported.
  • The end users need to install the protection driver.
  • There are several files in the folder, and you need to know which file to run.
  • Only for Windows.
The player is not included into the archive with the files
  • The end users only need to install the player once. It can play back any files protected with SFContent.com.
  • Currently we support only Windows, but soon other operating systems will be available.
  • The files can be provided through a link.
  • The end users download the player themselves.
  • The publisher needs to remember to provide the link to download the player, to the end users.
  • Watermarks are not supported temporarily.

The protected files bind to the end user computer. This means that they can run on this computer only. A serial number is required to run the files. The customer generates the serial numbers on the license management website.

Embedded DRM system allows collecting the statistics on how the protected video and audio files are used (how many serial numbers have been generated, when and where they have been activated, and so on).

Protecting through free Protection Studio

This is a more expensive protection option. It allows considerable modification of the player interface. (You can modify the player yourself or through the customer support.) In this case, you can protect large audio and video files, as well as protect media files and documents simultaneously.

Only Windows OS is supported.

Customizing the player

This protection method allows you to modify the interface of the player according to your needs. You can use your company’s logo, design, etc. To do so, you need to modify the player source code (coding skills are required). The player itself is protected along with video and audio files and is then provided to the end users.

With this solution, you also can:

Add questions to videos. This is helpful for creating educational content, as well for complicating screen recording. To continue viewing the video, the end user should give the right answers to the questions.
Set passwords to the files. This allows limiting the access to the content for different groups of users (for example, administrator, students, etc.).

The files are not loaded to the website; instead, they are protected on a local computer. The protected video or audio can bind to:

end user computer (activation with a serial number, as with protection on the website);
remote server (binding to the end user; the license is checked each time the file runs);
CD/DVD disc;
USB drive.

Protecting video files along with documents

In this case, both media files and documents (for example, PDFs) open from the protected player.

To implement protection, minor modifications to the player code are required. The player already contains a code that calls a file. You only need to add the required document to the folder with files for protection and specify the path to the document. If you need to open several documents, copy and paste the corresponding code areas and add the names of the documents.

You can also call different programs from the protected player (for examples, you run a browser, open Notepad, etc.).

The supported binding types are the same as in the previous section (binding to computer, remote server, optical disc, or USB drive).

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