Best Practices in Digital Rights Management

Reducing the Risk to Online Content with IP Intelligence


Executive Summary

As the digital universe evolves in both volume and scope, companies must be diligent about protecting their content. In addition to theft prevention, they must manage access to live streaming and downloadable content. Unfettered access can result in an onslaught of potential repercussions – from the outright cost of theft and government penalties to brand damage. Fortunately, companies can easily leverage IP information to protect themselves. This paper explores the best practices of using IP intelligence for digital rights management to reduce risk to online content.

The Web continues to expand at an astonishing rate as hundreds of thousands of new pieces of content are published by the day. In 2012, 30 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube – every minute. And Intel predicts that in 2015 it will take five years to view all video crossing IP networks each second.1 Seem a little hard to swallow? Consider this: According to comScore, in February 2013, 178 million Americans watched 33 billion online content videos.2 And it’s not just cat videos being viewed. It’s advertisements, marketing pieces, product tutorials, featurelength movies and more. In other words, active revenue streams.

The Internet is perceived as an information superhighway with data and content traversing freely, but that’s not the case. There are boundaries consumers can’t see. Cultural nuances, licensing contracts and federal regulations place restrictions on who can access what content and from where. For example, a broadcast company may stream a regional news broadcast within a specific locale. As businesses contribute to the growing body of content known as the Web and come to view content as an active revenue stream, they also recognize the risk of providing unbridled access to that content.

In order to protect that revenue stream, controls are necessary – to prevent unauthorized copying, sharing, piracy and other violations of service terms and partner agreements. This white paper illustrates the need for a comprehensive digital rights management (DRM) strategy and explains how businesses can use IP intelligence to more effectively protect content against unauthorized access.

Content Reigns on the Internet

The Internet is burgeoning with content, and for good reason. It has the power to change perceptions, and to market, educate and sell. But content is not just a “nice to have.” Given the prominence of the Web in today’s online society, businesses need content to remain competitive. This has driven many companies to become content publishers – producing videos, ebooks, downloadable applications, games, music, infographics, blogs and more. Still others license and redistribute content.

Creating or licensing content can be a costly endeavor, however. Consider, for example, Netflix. The company expanded its DVD rental service to include live online streaming of videos. Seeking Alpha, an investment research platform, reports that Netflix’s deal with Disney is valued at $150 million to $200 million for just one year’s worth of content. Meanwhile, Netflix is paying Epix $200 million a year for five years to stream content from Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate.3

But that’s just the start. All of this content has value beyond what it costs to create or license. How many leads did that white paper or ebook generate? How many of those leads turned into sales? How many of those video advertisements led to purchases at a brick-and-mortar store? How much did that downloadable app improve customer loyalty? And those are just the “soft” costs. Businesses are also monetizing content with low overhead. Once created and published, content becomes a passive income stream that adds to the bottom line.

Some businesses have indeed assigned a value to their content. In fact, nearly half of the respondents to a survey conducted by Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL) say their content accounts for more than 50% of their company’s value; another 27% estimate their content to be worth 75% of their company’s value.4 Clearly, content is a valuable asset.

The Need for Digital Rights Management

Anything of value is also at risk and requires digital protection. To that end, content requires digital rights management – that is, managing the distribution of online content to ensure that licensing and copyright agreements are adhered to and that content is protected against piracy. The goal of DRM is to secure content against unauthorized access and unlawful distribution so as to retain its value.

Like the content itself, DRM is not just important, it’s a necessity. Many companies must adhere to commercial licensing, copyright and distribution agreements for the content they offer. For example, a broadcast network may have a licensing agreement to stream live sporting events to specific regions. If an event is broadcast in an area that is not covered in the license, the network may be subject to fines for the copyright owner’s actual damages and any additional profits of the wrongdoer. Other companies may need to ensure that customers are abiding by distribution policies and not, for example, making copies of purchased audio or video files.

Complying with contracts and agreements is serious business, but DRM doesn’t stop there. Any business can easily become a global company by simply having a presence on the Web, but that doesn’t mean all of its content is appropriate for every market. History is full of lessons learned by companies that suffered brand damage as a result of entering foreign markets without consideration for local customs and social practices. DRM makes it possible to observe social and cultural practices on a geographic basis by limiting access to only that content that is appropriate for the market. It’s about more than the social nuances that are conveyed in marketing and sales material, but also issues like the language and currencies displayed on a retail site.

Finally, DRM helps prevent content theft. With the proper controls in place, businesses can ensure that only legitimate buyers can download paid content. This protects the revenue stream for the business as much as it protects the value of the content for the customer, as it reduces the risk of unlawful distribution and degradation of perceived value. Without controls, content could be stolen and tampered with, then distributed to unknowing customers.

IP Intelligence: The Key to Digital Rights Management

So, what’s the secret to doing DRM well? The answer is IP intelligence. IP intelligence is the data associated with an IP address that enables informed business decisions regarding online content. More specifically, IP intelligence is the understanding of the location and routing methodology of IP addresses. It enables online businesses to better understand where and how their visitors or customers are accessing their properties on the Web.

Every device on the Internet has an IP address, and the IP address has data associated with it, such as the device’s location. IP intelligence provides actionable information based on that data so businesses can determine how and what content to serve to a user.

Using IP intelligence for DRM has multiple benefits. It allows businesses to better understand their audience and enforce DRM without threatening the user’s privacy. IP intelligence data is derived from publicly available information sources, and is verified and supplemented with additional intelligence about each IP address. Businesses are within their full rights to use this information. And because the information is delivered in real time, businesses can easily and quickly adapt their DRM strategy to changing regulations.

Best Practices for Effective Digital Rights Management with IP Intelligence

Use IP geolocation to understand where users are accessing content
IP intelligence can provide the location of a user, many times all the way down to the postal code, without additional software or user intervention. This information – geolocation – can be used to grant or prohibit access to content based on where the user is located. However, IP intelligence is not a perfect science. CIOs should choose only a vendor with a high data accuracy rate – an accuracy rate that can be verified – and safeguards in place to mitigate potential errors.

Look at digital content protection holistically
IP intelligence and DRM are most effective when they are considered as part of the larger picture of protecting the business’s intellectual property. Therefore, CIOs should think about their Internet presence holistically. Businesses have multiple points of access to their Internet properties and any one of these can be subject to an assault. An attack that appears innocuous may actually be a preemptive probe in preparation of a larger attack. Businesses should look beyond protecting digital content, and fully appreciate and understand how DRM efforts fit into their larger information security strategy

Manage the customer experience accordingly
Enforcing DRM with technical controls is important, but it is also important to appropriately manage the customer experience within the context of corporate policies. No one likes being denied access, so don’t offer customers something that isn’t available to them. Marketing should be aware of the business’s digital rights policies, and identify and promote distribution availability correctly on the Web and in promotional materials. An ebook translated into various languages, for instance, should be promoted accordingly. Failing to align the customer experience with digital rights policies can result in unhappy customers and lower revenues.

Look beyond IP geolocation
Geolocation makes up only one part of IP intelligence. It doesn’t provide any indication of how the Internet traffic associated with that device is routed. For example, mobile device traffic may be connecting via 3G/4G networks or local Wi-Fi. With 3G/4G, the user session is backhauled between the device and a data center, which may not be in the same state or country as the device. The IP address location is more reliable with Wi-Fi. It is therefore important to understand how users are connecting to the business as well as from where. Are they using a mobile device? Are they coming from an anonymizing proxy? What type of connection are they on? Are they connecting through a corporate VPN? And what is their connection speed? All of this can be used to determine how and what content a user should be able to access.

Bottom Line

Whether or not it’s directly tied to a revenue stream, online content is a valuable asset to today’s businesses. Unfortunately, with value comes risk, and content is no different. That’s why businesses need a digital rights management strategy to protect content against unlawful distribution and unauthorized access. Using IP intelligence as part of a DRM strategy not only streamlines distribution and access, but also safeguards content value.

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