CDSA Exclusive

Content Security Experts: No Easy Answer to Hollywood’s Screener Problem

It was hard to find anyone in favor of DVD screeners at the March 22 Content Protection Briefing event. But attendees and speakers at the event sure know why they still exist.

They’re a “perk” for awards voters, “swag” for guild members, and — depending on who you talk to — still the only way some studio executives want to deal with early release content.

Following last year’s massive leak of newly released theatrical films right around Christmas, many due to leaked DVD screeners, speakers at the Content Protection Briefing (a special summit produced by the Content Delivery & Security Association and the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance) offered their thoughts on what it’ll take for Hollywood to make the change to digital screeners full time.

“With the maturity of the technology [accessible] to end users — browsers, players, etc. — it’s greatly dependent on what the client has access to,” Dmitry Primachenko, SVP of MediaVu and secure cinema for Deluxe, said of any type of digital screening system that may be used. While many people using digital screeners today will attest to the higher quality they have over DVD, he said, content owners need to be constantly on top of what they’re sharing, how they’re sharing it, and who they’re sharing it with.

“It needs to be easy, it needs to be flawless, and it needs to be special,” he said.

Panelists argued that any digital experience with screeners needs to be seamless and simple. Otherwise the awards voters will simply go back to asking for DVDs.

“From a cloud perspective, it’s going to be around storage and getting secure access to that content,” argued Joel Sloss, program manager of security, privacy, and compliance for Microsoft Azure. “Creating a universal system that isn’t a burden to the people you want to access that content is going to be the trick.”

Conditional access (CA) and DRM help make sure digital content is delivered only to authorized users, said Joe Daniel, senior solutions architect for Civolution. But those features don’t prevent those users from illegally re-distributing content. It’s forensic watermarking — that invisible ID embedded within digital content — that makes digital content truly track-able to its source, and an effective deterrent to piracy, he added.

The benefits of digital screeners are numerous and understated, Daniel continued: it’s cheaper to deploy digitally (compared to shipping out hundreds of physical discs), there’s instant access for the end user (and instant accountability if something is stolen), and the content can be played across most any digital device (compared to DVD-only screeners). But the end user experience needs to be seamless.

“It needs to be executive-proof, or it will turn them off to a solution,” agreed Matt Thomas, head of sales for MediaSilo. “Add friction and time to the process, and they’ll find a way around it. [And] seeing the [watermarked] name there is possibly the best deterrent you can have.”

Mark Nakano, senior director of product marketing and partnerships for NexGuard, noted that everything that’s needed to secure digitally released already exists, and can be done without hurting the experience. “With digital screeners you have a level of accountability,” he said. “It’s a matter of convincing the content owners and studio that [this works].”