This article explains what screen recording is, and how to counter it.
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We define "screen recording" (also known as "screen capturing") as the malpractice of illegally recording video streams on a website or application of a content provider.
Screen recordings - and redistribution of screen recordings - is considered a major, (arguably) unsolved issue in the video industry. All content providers - including Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu - struggle to counter screen recordings. Most popular providers employ strategies to counter screen recordings, or to reduce the impact of screen recordings.
Creating a screen recording doesn't have to be difficult.
The quality (and bitrate) of a video stream degrades through a screen recording, which is a useful property when the recording leaks.
We do not define "screen recording" as the malpractice of illegally downloading and/or decrypting the original video streams on the website or application of a content provider.
There are strategies to prevent screen recordings, and strategies to cope with screen recordings.
You want to consider both strategies as a content provider.
However, never assume that you can make screen recording impossible, as "content pirates" will keep identifying and using workarounds. For example, a common workaround is "Digital-to-Analog", where a smartphone camera could record a screen. Alternatively, dedicated hardware may also be able to screen recording, such as an HDMI recorder which does follow HDCP, but uses leaked certificates to record the output regardless.
Using an appropriate multi-DRM set-up prevents screen recording. Many devices and platforms allow you to configure FairPlay, PlayReady and Widevine in such a way that the device and platform automatically prevents screen recording tools. These configurations rely on the availability on support for hardware DRM.
Reach out to your multi-DRM provider to understand which options they offer to prevent screen recordings, and how these options affect your targeted platforms.
The following statements are generally true for multi-DRM:
The previous section establishes that you can prevent screen recordings on many platforms, but not all platforms. As a content provider, you could decide to only distribute your content on the set of platforms which allow for the prevention of screen recording through multi-DRM.
In this strategy, you could be forcing users to use another platform than their preferred choice. For example, disallowing your viewers to use Chrome, means that about 50% of your browser viewers need to switch to another browser.
There are other strategies beyond only allowing your users to watch content on platforms where DRM prevents screen recording.
setContentProtectionmethod to prevent screen recording.
You could try to use technology which prevents screen recording through third-party plugins.
The arguably primary industry problem w.r.t. screen recording is the prevention of screen recording on Chrome for Windows and Apple machines, due to the sheer popularity of this platform. Should Windows and Apple add support for Widevine L1, then screen recording becomes more challenging on Chrome. This change would grant a large coverage of protection on the browser market through multi-DRM.
That being said, platform developers are engaging in efforts to make hardware DRM available on an increasing amount of platforms.
When you are not able to prevent screen recording, you can employ strategies to cope with it. For example, you can use watermarking, or only allow a limited stream quality on platforms which cannot prevent screen recording.
A forensic or digital watermark allows you to embed an identifier in a video stream. You can trace the identifier of a leaked screen recording. This tracking allows you to take punitive actions towards users who created the screen recording.
A forensic watermark should be imperceptible and robust.
You can restrict the available video stream quality to users. For example, if your viewer is accessing the video stream on a platform which doesn't prevent screen recording through DRM, you don't allow them to access any quality above 720p. (This is a popular strategy among top content providers, including Netflix and Disney+.)
A low-quality, leaked recording (which is even further degraded through the recording process) may reduce its appeal.
Watermarking and restricting the quality allow you to react to leaks, and to further reduce its impact.
You may also consider different strategies to reduce the impact of screen recordings. For example, an AVOD business model would arguably suffer less from this, because viewers can access your content for free, but you would monetize it through advertisements.
The influence of a video player on the prevention of screen recording is mainly through its support for DRM. Meaning, a video player can "indirectly" support the prevention of screen recording, if the video player is running on a website or app where screen recording is not allowed by the platform due to the employed DRM strategy.
The technological limitations of a platform are also the technological limitations of a video player. The strategies discussed in this article are used in combination with a video player, but they are not the responsibility of a video player. For these strategies to work, the implementation and configuration of additional components (e.g. multi-DRM, watermarking, third-party plugin) is mandatory. These components are not offered by a single video player SDK out-of-the-box. This means that you have to combine a video player which external components.
The previous section explains that video players indirectly prevent screen recordings when using the appropriate multi-DRM set-up. This statement is also true for THEOplayer.
Additionally, THEOplayer is partnered with vendors which offer multi-DRM and watermarking. These partners are listed at https://www.theoplayer.com/partners.
You should tailor your strategy to your needs. Four valid strategies are listed below.