A server comes from the client-server architecture of online connectivity. It is usually hardware or software that provides functionalities to a client through some devices or software. They can not only store data but also provide computational resources to clients. This relationship is established through a request and response model followed through various available ports. This model is also used to set up a DRM server to provide security solutions to clients like OTT and Online course platforms.
The use of DRM servers makes it very easy to protect video and other digital assets due to the dynamic nature of its mechanism. The setup requires you to have your licensed encoding, transcoding, storage, and distribution architecture for complete protection. Also, when setting up a DRM server, it is necessary to enhance the security through multi-DRM layers and other safetynet algorithms. For example, Google Widevine DRM will only protect you on Android, Chrome, and other Google devices but not on Apple. Similarly, Apple Fairplay DRM protects your digital assets on Apple devices and Safari Browser.
DRM server meaning and Working
A DRM server also serves the same purpose as that of a server, but instead of being handled via one server, it is a combination of multiple servers. They work together to establish a secure delivery of videos, audio, and other files. Similar to a server, it consists of handling various requests and responses made simultaneously to capture all levels where a security breach can be made. We have discussed the major levels of security in the section below on the setup of the DRM server.
Basically, all the coding modules for encryption and key exchange are loaded on different computational servers. They carry out the complete process of encrypting an upload stream, adaptive bitrates, storage, global distribution, and secured playback. To enhance the protection on all major devices and browsers it is further advised to have a multi-DRM setup. This means setting up more DRM servers with few alterations as per other license authorities like Apple Fairplay, which requires additional license form submission.
Who needs a DRM server solution?
Before understanding the need for a DRM server, let us understand two kinds of creator economies. One is public content that mainly earns via YT, like video monetization, and the other is premium content that monetizes via subscription, pay-per-view, etc. Now, the public content, which is mainly single user-generated content, requires too much audience and virality to earn. That is why video platforms like YouTube and ebooks platforms like Amazon Kindle are a great choices for them. But the ones having some premium content are in dire need of a DRM server.
For example, OTT providers like Netflix cannot risk direct downloads via browsers or App. EdTech platforms cannot risk their videos being illegally downloaded and distributed. This is a direct loss to their monetizable content, and that is why all the likes of Netflix use multi-DRM servers to protect their premium content. Since every video creator cannot set up their DRM servers, solutions like Vdocipher help them set up a full-fledged multi-DRM setup at very affordable prices.
When the content is unique, and premium, normal encryption like AES-128 fails through various loopholes during the delivery process. That is why it is made possible through the DRM server that no one can try to access your digital content.
How to setup a DRM server
Setting up a DRM server is a process of acquiring licenses and writing various modules of codes to handle all levels for security breach possibility. These levels can be broadly divided into two majors as follows:
Content Encryption: First of all, a DRM server starts with an encoding process to encrypt the upload stream. The digital assets file gets encrypted using DRM OEM specifications. The content stream can be packed through a CLI packager. Next implementations require chunking and fragmentation to prepare packaging of formats like MP4 into different bitrate files. This is done to support adaptive bitrate streaming for different bandwidth users, ensuring a smooth experience. Server-side encryption offers greater scalability, security, advanced API calls, parallel packaging, and more.
The packager requests an encryption key from the DRM server to encrypt the content. The server provides an encryption key and links that key to the content ID. Using the encryption key, the packager encrypts and re-packages the content.
Playback via DRM server: During the playback or when the file is requested, the DRM key exchange mechanism will check for the authorized key. The applicable DRM license provider (Apple/Google) will match the authorized keys with the widevine DRM license server or fairplay DRM license server and will revert with denied access or encrypted chunks. These chunks will later get through the device or browser’s DRM module to finally get decrypted for playback.
All these requests and responses are handled via modules of codes in compatible language with the licensing authority. This network of requests and response usually requires handling major processing codes via different servers for scalability.
Challenges in setting up a DRM server
Apart from a License, setting up a DRM server requires a necessary 2-level security infrastructure. First is at the transcoding level, where content gets encrypted with all updated DRM parameters and gets stored. The storage also requires various encrypted bitrate files for adaptive bitrate streaming. The second level is at the playback level, where the encrypted content is decrypted using a dynamic key-exchange mechanism for final playback. These challenges can also be viewed through two perspectives of in-house DRM vs DRM Server Solutions.
- In-house DRM Setup – Coding and setting up all these request response modules in different servers with load balancers for scalability is an enterprise infrastructure. That is why very large enterprises like Netflix & Amazon Prime build in-house multi-DRM infrastructure.
- DRM Server Solutions – Apart from the tech giants, many large to small video businesses rely on DRM server solutions like VdoCipher, which provide multi-DRM Encryption, AWS infra, customizable video player, and many other features.
Benefits of using DRM server solution for Video Protection
As we discussed the challenges of setting up a DRM server for your digital assets, a solution provider is necessary. Some things that must be considered while choosing a DRM solution provider are scalable infrastructure, multi-DRM, features, players, and integrations. This is because once you start growing, your needs will grow, and then you might require advanced features. A good DRM server solution needs to provide at least the following features for complete security.
- Highest Grade Encryption – In today’s world, due to the efficiency of hackers, a single encryption system can protect a digital asset in some devices and browsers. This means better security is always a mix of multiple security systems as a single infrastructure. As per security reports, multi-DRM with updated devices and an extra private security net is a must for copyright protection.
- Dynamic Watermarking – This is to deter screen capture via displaying dynamic information like the user’s IP on the video. Even if the video gets captured via camera, it will still be easy to prevent propagation.
- API and Plugin Integration – For easy integrations, this must be a benefit you need to look forward to matching with your present and future goals. Otherwise, this benefit can also become a headache with no or non-working integration code and plugins.
- CDN Integration – via scalable and best uptime global distribution infrastructure like that of AWS.
- Adaptive bitrate streaming for various bandwidths and Responsive HTML5 player.
- Geo, IP, and Time based restrictions for broad access management.
Setup Widevine License Server and Apple Fairplay for Multi-DRM
Setting up a Widevine DRM server is a process of acquiring licenses and writing various modules of codes with Widevine compatible parameters. Its implementation is necessary to handle all levels of security breach possibility on Google devices and browsers. These levels have been previously discussed as Content Encryption and Playback via DRM server in the previous sections. Similar to setting to a DRM server, these levels require setting up coding modules on various servers.
All these coded requests and responses with compatible language and parameters with the licensing authority need to work bug-free. Only then a Widevine DRM mechanism will fully work to block illegal downloads and screen captures on Google products.
You don’t need to set up Google Widevine DRM in case of using a DRM server solution like VdoCipher. Google Widevine DRM comes as default with DRM server providers like VdoCipher, but it is advisable to get Fairplay and safetynet. Apple has made it one step mandatorily extra to write a separate application for multi-DRM via client. Still, it is just an application and nothing to code and set up.
Role of DRM in evading Video Piracy
Video piracy is a major challenge faced by video creators and publishers. It refers to the unauthorized usage and distribution of video content that is copyright protected. This gives the video owner the right to perform certain actions on their content and limit or authorize access. The unauthorized sharing of content and assets has grown multifold due to access to the internet and smart devices. Video pirates now have a range of ways to retrieve and distribute video content. Common tactics include credential stuffing and bypassing encryption vulnerabilities. In 2019, on average 230k people in the United States lost their jobs due to digital piracy.
Organizations and individual creators are forced to adopt some or the other anti-piracy solution in place, the main being Digital Rights Management (DRM). Netflix, for example, has its internal team to address video piracy issues.
The term DRM is a set of technologies to enforce a license between the content provider and the consumer or viewer. DRM controls how the content is accessed and limits the use and transfer of content. Most streaming services now use DRM encryption technologies to prevent users from downloading and saving video content offline. Instead, they put restrictions on how long the downloaded video lasts or ensure only paid subscribers access the content. The key exchange between the license server and the player in DRM Encryption is private. Hackers and internet plugins cannot easily download video content.
Issues with DRM server security
Like every other technology, DRM is also a set of code, and some updates can make it buggy. Sometimes fixing up requires a different set of updated parameters and many times, the license authority handles updates on their end. Also, there is a small percentage of DRM-incompatible devices and devices that are too old and don’t get a DRM-friendly update. Such device % is estimated to be within the range of <0.3%, and such cases occur mostly in Android devices and not in Apple or Windows devices. Google majorly quotes custom Android OS implementations by some mobile manufacturers.
How can a course platform or OTT implement Video DRM server with ease?
Until a few years back, integrating DRM was within reach of big companies and organizations like Netflix that had the technical team and time to handle the complexities of DRM implementation. Small, medium, and large EdTech and OTT platforms look for DRM server providers like VdoCipher. Effortless Multi DRM integration with many other loaded features can be integrated by a single person.
With VdoCipher, you will get Google and Apple Video DRM with advanced safety net protection. The unique proposition of VdoCipher is that the integration effort required by the customers is minimal for integrating DRM-based video playback. You also get the following other features apart from DRM.
- Dynamic Watermarking to deter screen capture
- Domain Restriction for access management
- AWS-powered servers, transcoding & CDN infrastructure to ensure a smooth playback across 6 continents.
- Smart Video Player
- Quick integration with popular CMS and LMS like WordPress and Moodle via plugin.
- Dashboard to manage videos
- Iframe, Plugin, API, SDK Integrations
Do DRM servers deter screen recording?
Yes, DRM comes with screen capture prevention support, but it is limited to the devices and browsers of the license provider.
In a simple explanation, how does a DRM server work?
When a viewer tries to access DRM-Protected digital content or video, the DRM license server checks the key authorization and returns the encrypted content. These encrypted chunks get finally decrypted using the final device DRM module.
What is the main purpose of DRM integration?
DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is mainly used to protect the rights of copyright holders. This is done by protecting against unauthorized access and distribution of digital assets.
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My expertise focuses on DRM encryption, CDN technologies, and streamlining marketing campaigns to drive engagement and growth. At VdoCipher, I’ve significantly enhanced digital experiences and contributed to in-depth technical discussions in the eLearning, Media, and Security sectors, showcasing a commitment to innovation and excellence in the digital landscape.