7 Ways Streaming Services Can Effectively Combat Digital Piracy

By Jayesh Varsani

In 2018, a pivotal shift occurred in media consumption as the global number of video streaming subscribers surpassed that of pay TV subscribers. Video expansion and increased consumer demand has led to the production of more original content than ever before. However, this growth has been shadowed by the accompanying rise of digital piracy, posing a significant threat to advancements brought forth by legal streaming services.

Studies reveal that as of 2023, over 80% of all digital piracy stems from illegal streaming, with the annual viewership of unauthorized video content surpassing 230 billion. According to Parks Associates, the U.S. streaming video sector alone is projected to face a cumulative revenue loss of $113 billion by 2027 due to content theft, with yearly losses approximating $20 billion.

As a result, there’s an urgent need for sophisticated, anti-piracy tools specifically designed to address the evolving nature of digital piracy. Below are seven effective strategies that streaming services can implement to reduce, prevent, and combat digital piracy.

1. Implement DRM and Secure End-to-End Workflows

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is widely recognized as one of the most effective methods for preventing digital piracy. It restricts a pirate’s ability to copy or redistribute media by requiring a specific decryption key to view the video file.

This significantly deters casual piracy and mitigates the risk of illicit distribution. However, only having a DRM solution in place is not enough, it must also be secure in its implementation to be effective and take place within secure end-to-end workflows. Regular audits of DRM solutions therefore play a crucial role in preventing breaches that could lead to content theft and piracy.

Cartesian’s  Farncombe Security™ Audits provide a comprehensive solution for evaluating, enhancing and refining DRM, multi-DRM license delivery workflows, and end-to-end video platforms. We analyze their effectiveness, identify vulnerabilities, and provide customized solutions to strengthen defenses.

2. Leverage Watermarking Technologies

Watermarking technologies have become increasingly important in the fight against digital piracy. These technologies embed unique, invisible markings within the video content, allowing pinpoint identification of the piracy source.

Such precision is instrumental in both prosecuting pirates and deterring potential infringers who may hesitate to share or distribute pirated content knowing it can be traced back to them. However, the effectiveness of watermarking is dependent upon its robustness against a variety of attacks. These attacks, aimed at removing or destroying the watermark, can range from filtering, compression, collusion, re-scaling, cropping, as well as changes in resolution and bitrate.

The critical importance of robust watermarking in today’s digital era cannot be overstated. As pirates develop more advanced techniques to tamper with or remove digital watermarks, watermarking technologies must stay one step ahead.

Cartesian’s Farncombe Security™ Watermark Robustness Testing subjects watermarking solutions to real-world piracy attacks using a rigorous testing framework developed in collaboration with content owners, Hollywood studios, MovieLabs, and MPAA. However, having a robust watermarking solution is not enough, as it must also be securely implemented. Therefore we also offer a comprehensive Watermark Implementation Review for both client and server-side solutions, ensuring total security of your solution’s end-to-end implementation.

3. Protect against Credential Sharing

Credential sharing plays a significant role in digital piracy, leading to substantial revenue losses for streaming services. It extends beyond individuals sharing login information with friends and family. It also encompasses larger-scale activities, with vast quantities of login credentials available for purchase on the internet.

Credential sharing cost streamers and pay TV providers an estimated $9.1 billion in lost revenue in 2019, and this figure is expected to reach $12.5 billion in 2024. Considering the escalating problem of credential sharing, it has become essential for streaming services to formulate and implement comprehensive strategies to prevent this form of digital piracy. The adoption of credential sharing strategies is crucial not only for revenue protection but also for maintaining the value of the service offered.

(Cartesian, 2020)

Cartesian offers specialized solutions for the complex challenge of credential sharing. We combine strategy, data analytics, and technology solutions with our deep industry knowledge, all whilst balancing revenue protection with customer satisfaction.

4. Introduce Geo-Blocking and VPN Detection  

Geo-blocking is an effective tool in reducing digital piracy and protecting content rights agreements. This process is generally based on analyzing a user’s IP address to pinpoint their location, consequently denying access if the content lacks licensing for that particular area.

Geo-blocking’s effectiveness, though, is challenged by technologies like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). VPNs replace a user’s IP address with one from the VPN’s servers that provides access to out-of-area entertainment. This feature has made VPNs increasingly popular and is now the primary reason for VPN use globally, accounting for half of its users.

Without robust geo-blocking and VPN detection, content service providers will struggle to protect content rights and maintain their licensing agreements. This can jeopardize future licensing opportunities, distort global competition across streaming platforms, and increase the exposure of each platform to content theft.

The Farncombe Security™ Geo-Blocking Circumvention Testing evaluates geo-blocking solutions by testing them against thousands of geographical endpoints, checking the successful identification and blocking of VPNs and other bypass methods. This service enables streaming providers to confirm their content is accessible exclusively in permitted geographies.

5. Assess Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability assessments play a crucial role in identifying and addressing security weaknesses, substantially lowering the risk of digital piracy for streaming services. According to Microsoft’s 2022 Digital Defense Report, the company identified a staggering 24 trillion threat signals worldwide. This represents a substantial increase from the 3 trillion signals reported in 2019, indicating a significant escalation in the volume and complexity of cyber security threats. By performing vulnerability assessments, streaming services can better detect and fix potential security gaps before they are exploited.

In the current digital landscape, marked by rampant and evolving digital piracy, Cartesian’s Vulnerability Assessments are vital in safeguarding streaming platforms. Designed for content owners and video service providers, our service not only uncovers weaknesses but also offers practical solutions to secure platforms, content, and user data against theft and unauthorized distribution.

6. Implement Service Usage Rules

Combating digital piracy requires a multi-faceted approach, which is where the implementation of service usage rules can play a significant role. Services can reduce piracy incidents by setting clear and transparent rules that define acceptable usage behaviors.

These rules typically include restrictions on content usage, featuring strict measures against copying, sharing, or redistributing content. For instance, streaming services can impose limits on the number of simultaneous streams or on the number of devices that can be used per account, thereby preventing users from sharing their login credentials with unauthorized users.

In addition to these measures, requiring an appropriate version of HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) and restricting on-screen mirroring or casting can prevent attempts to capture and illicitly distribute content. While the implementation of these rules is essential, their effectiveness hinges on consistent testing and validation to guarantee robust enforcement.

Cartesian’s Compliance Testing provides a key solution for content owners and service providers. We provide an independent, third-party verification process to determine how content is accessed by consumers, adherence to contractual obligations, and whether adequate restrictions are effectively in place.

7. Apply Enforcement Strategies

Crucial to combating digital piracy is the implementation of robust enforcement strategies. Strategies should include strict legal actions against repeat offenders, seizing piracy-enabling devices, and partnering with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute large-scale piracy networks.

Streaming services that adopt a proactive approach can swiftly identify and neutralize pirated material. This approach serves a dual purpose: it safeguards the rights of content creators and deters potential pirates from distributing or uploading illicit content.

Additionally, streaming services should utilize advanced technological tools like digital fingerprinting and watermarking. These technologies play an important role in tracking and identifying pirated content. By combining these technical solutions with legal and enforcement measures, a significant reduction in piracy can be achieved.

Cartesian’s customized Anti-Piracy Investigations excel in strengthening your enforcement initiatives, diligently gathering tailored evidence of online piracy to fortify your legal actions.


In an era where digital piracy continues to pose on ongoing threat to streaming services, it is essential to employ a multi-faceted approach to content security. Continuously updating security protocols and keeping pace with the latest trends in piracy are crucial steps. However, technical measures such as DRM, watermarking, and geo-blocking are not sufficient alone. These solutions need proper implementation and careful monitoring within an end-to-end environment that holistically implements security, both at the technical and process level.

With the right support, streaming services can effectively align content security with the highest security standards and reduce, prevent, and combat digital piracy. By leveraging the strategies outlined above, providers can safeguard their platforms, maintain their competitive edge, and stay one step ahead in the ever-evolving world of digital piracy.

How Cartesian Can Help

Ready to secure your digital content? Contact Cartesian today to combat piracy and strengthen your defenses. Our trusted experts provide invaluable insights and solutions tailored to your specific needs. Reach out now for expert guidance and peace of mind.