Amazon patents a novel technique to identify content pirates on Prime

2020-11-23

E-commerce giant Amazon has received a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for a technique designed to identify subscribers pirating Amazon's online content on the Prime Video platform.  E5-1620 v2

Video piracy is a big challenge for all content streaming platforms irrespective of their size. It is estimated that revenue losses worldwide due to video piracy could exceed $61 billion in 2020 and $67 billion by 2023.

While content makers have taken a number of steps to stop  and have also been able to shut down many illegal file-sharing services, including Streamango and Openload, the issue continues to be as prevalent as ever.

As with other over-the-top (OTT) media services platforms, almost every title released on Amazon Prime Video is pirated shortly after its release.

To mitigate piracy, the company has now come up with a twist on an old technology to identify the subscribers who make duplicates of Amazon's copyrighted content and leak them on the web.

Under the new technique - called "" - Amazon proposes to add a unique identifier (User ID) to streaming content. While the technique appears similar to the earlier 'watermark' scheme, the way in which Amazon wants to implement it is new.

When a subscriber plays the video, Amazon will generate a customised manifest data based on the unique ID. The data is then used as input for the Fire TV player, which "requests video data based on the data and decodes the video fragments from the media server".

If the subscriber records the video with a camera, the new recording will include a code or mark (visible or invisible) pointing back to the manifest data.

According to Amazon, this mark is recoverable as a version pattern that will help identify the particular user as the source of the recorded episode.

Because the identifier will be invisible to the human eye, pirates will be unable to remove it from the video.

Amazon says this technique will work on pre-uploaded videos and live streams like the NFL.

It is not known whether the e-commerce giant has been using this technique up to now, but it will be interesting to see how effective it is in countering digital piracy, where numerous others have failed.