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I'm a user who has Internet Download Manager and I haven't met any video content that couldn't be downloaded by IDM.

Now I would place some videos on my website and make them not downloadable, or at least not viewed after downloaded – and I'd like to make impossible to change the format of content into a viewable one. I want to use it for info-business.

How can I do that?

P.S. I do not consider Screen Recording as a problem, as I know they decrease quality of videos. Am I right?

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closed as off topic by soandos, Journeyman Geek, Dave M, Breakthrough, random Jun 1 '13 at 19:10

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If it's viewable, it's downloadable. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 29 '13 at 10:49
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This is why Netflix is trying so hard to get DRM in HTML5 btw: techblog.netflix.com/2013/04/html5-video-at-netflix.html –  Suman May 29 '13 at 14:49
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@IgnacioVazquez-Abrams - even more: viewing requires downloading, which equals copying. –  Nathan Long May 29 '13 at 16:54
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Yes, you can make your video not downloadable; don't put it on your website. –  Istvan Chung May 29 '13 at 17:54
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Define difference between "download" and "frames appear one by one on my computer's frame buffer". –  Kaz May 29 '13 at 20:49

6 Answers 6

up vote 53 down vote accepted

It is impossible to show the user a video in a browser without them also having the ability to download and keep it. If there was a way to do so then every video site would be doing it.

There are a bunch of tricks you can do to make it much more difficult such as only allowing the video file to be requested within X seconds of the page loading with some clever server-side logic - but these are just minor roadblocks.

To attempt is futile.

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@Gio If you give the users a ZIP file, they can do whatever they want with it. Going the route of giving users a program to watch videos and restrict them to a key sounds like a bad idea—basically this is what all copyright protection systems tried and utterly failed with, because either the program wasn't secured well enough or people stopped using it because it was awkward to work with. If you do that, you'll just annoy the customers who paid for your content in good faith. –  slhck May 29 '13 at 11:27
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@Gio Your best option would be streaming the video. But you need to remember, if the video is viewable to the end user, there is always a possibility for them to copy it in some way. There is no way around it. If the video is displayed on their computer, at the very least they can run a video capture program will its playing. –  Keltari May 29 '13 at 12:12
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@Gio - A number of places that distribute video clients are disseminating malicious ones; that is, the programs (if they read a video stream at all) install malware/rootkits on the computer. And if you do distribute your own, you have to make sure that it's hardened against malicious streams... –  Clockwork-Muse May 29 '13 at 18:21
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@AK4749: Well - the user have to have the decoder in the first place (which is probably unlikely because you would severely limit the userbase - and since no stream is using it no one have the initiative to buy one) AND the decoder outputs only to trusted source (the connection to monitor would need to be encoded. –  Maciej Piechotka May 29 '13 at 21:26
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@AK4749 There's dozens of free screen recorders. If it's visible on the monitor, it's re-recordable. –  Izkata May 30 '13 at 13:59

As PhonicUK said: if your browser shows something, a user will always have the possibility to store that information somewhere. You'll never be safe, unless you implement some kind of encryption, but you wouldn't want to do this yourself. If you offer the video files for download, even worse. When a client has a file to store on their computer, it's completely up to them what they want to do with it. They can copy it to other devices, upload it online, etc.

And this is not a bad thing. Whenever you try making it harder to rip a video, you make it harder for regular paying customers to get and use the content as well. This is, in essence, annoying. Several companies have tried to enforce copyright schemes upon users and majorly screwed it up. For example, there was a time where CDs were only playable on a computer by launching a separate clunky piece of software rootkit. Needless to say no honest paying customer liked that. Music distribution services like iTunes used to sell DRM-protected files, but later decided to ditch that.

Making your customers happier could make them recommend your services, and not shoving a complicated and customized copyright protection (like supplying the files in an application that decrypts them) will make you stand out as the good guy. So far, almost every protection was broken at some point anyway. Your business really should not rely on the content alone, but on the satisfaction of the customers primarily.

Now, for businesses that depend on monetization of their content, and where piracy would cause major loss (if there's a way to measure that is debatable), there are streaming services that specialize on content distribution with proper access right management and content protection. Brightcove is one of those services:

Protect your valuable contentEnsure your video is safe. Use RTMPe stream encryption and SWF verification to prevent video stream ripping and content theft and ensure that your video stream plays back only in your authorized players.

There are similar services, who mostly partner with broadcasting institutions (TV channels, etc.), but note that if you decide to go that route, you will have to pay for the service. These services don't work miracles though. If you can view something on your computer you can easily run a desktop recording software and capture it to a file. If the file's been viewed in the browser it was cached somewhere as well. So, in essence, expect your customers to play nice, and play it nice yourself.

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The only time I wasn't able to capture a video stream normally was when a family member was interviewed by a local TV station for winning an athletic event. After a few futile hours chasing a working tool to break their protection mechanism I did an end run with a screen grabber and just kept it at a high file size to minimize multiple compression artifacts. –  Dan Neely May 29 '13 at 17:12
    
@slhck♦ i have checked the Brightcover. I was waiting a protection that can make video undownloadable , before it will be allowed to watch. The thing I got from this experiment was the next>>> I have downloaded the video they were protecting, using IDM (Internet Download Manager) and the protection didn't work . So maybe there's no way to protect content? –  Gio May 29 '13 at 17:18
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@Gio "Making something undownloadable before being able to watch" does not make sense really. If you're watching it, you're downloading it. There's never a fully safe way to protect content, no. –  slhck May 29 '13 at 19:06

If a user can see the video in his computer, the video is, somehow, downloaded to his computer, so that his computer can process it and show it.

If it is downloaded, then, well... it is downloaded. Very basic and very complicated at the same time: doesn't matter if you allow the person to see it in the web, or require him to use a special program, or to use a special key... at some point, the program is run, the key is used, and the original video is displayed in the screen. Even HDMI devices, that should have some special hardware allowing to encrypt/decrypt the video, were already hacked.

And you can't prevent the user from using a camcord to record the video from his monitor.

If all your business relly upon this, something is wrong or something will go wrong.

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This is the fundamental answer. On the internet, view or play = download = copy. I can't see it unless the data gets from your site to my computer and my computer has a copy. –  Nathan Long May 29 '13 at 16:51

Even if you take the considerable effort develop your own video player plugin, which performs a session key exchange with your server and receives the video stream encrypted with a session key, attackers will simply take the path of least resistance: the playback hole. The playback hole means that a video can be duplicated by using a program which grabs the decoded frames from the frame buffer while the video is playing, while simultaneously capturing the audio by tapping into the operating system's audio framework.

You have to ask yourself: if the video is freely viewable, what's wrong if someone wants to stash away a copy? The only consequence is that people can share the video and not visit your site. But you can put notices in your video which lead people back to the source. So it's ultimately a good thing. People are copying your video and seeing your message. You have duped people into letting you use their private storage devices to host your video! :)

If you somehow succeed in making a video very hard to copy, then it will be only copied by hard-core crackers. Hard-core crackers will not be satisfied with merely sharing the cracked video. They will want credit for cracking it, so they will deface your video with their own messages, perhaps removing or overwriting some of your visual or audio content.

If your video is easy to download and copy, then it will be your original, unaltered video in its original quality that people are sharing.

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This can't be done. It's analogous to mandating that a magazine you've mailed to a subscriber is shredded after they read it.

In order for the user's computer to show them the video, the computer needs to know what to show them. This requires the server to send the content to the user's computer. While there are systems of video delivery that can prevent the common user from saving a streaming video, the fact that you have to actually send the content of the video to them in the first place means you can't prevent them from getting the video.

Videos can be encoded in various different ways (mp4, avi, mov, etc). The important thing to remember here is that the encoding is not there to prevent people from viewing the content, but to enable people to view it by defining how the data should be converted to picture and sound. In order for a user to watch a video at all, they need both the data making up the video and some tool to show that to them as a video. There is no way around that. Take away the data, there is no video to watch. Take away the method to transform it into something meaningful, and the data is just junk that can't be watched.


The bottom line is this:

  • If your video can be watched, it can be downloaded.
  • If your video can't be downloaded, it can't be watched.
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The answers saying this cannot be done are rather native and misleading. Sure, no security system is theoretically foolproof. However, there are technologies in widespread use that can indeed make it nearly impossible to steal a video, while still allowing it to be viewed. These are called DRM technologies and are used by all the major premium content providers (e.g. Netflix, Hulu).

DRM works by encrypting the video and requiring a secure player component in order to decrypt it and play it back. The player component is hardened against tampering - for example, if a hacker attempts to break into it, the player does it best to detect this and shuts itself down as soon as it detects an attack.

Likewide, the player validates all the connected devices and stops playback if e.g. you connect a DVD recorder to your PC. You can configure it to only allow playback on devices that verify that they are not recorders. Most modern monitors implement HDCP, which - among other features - ensures that content cannot be stolen even by tapping the monitor cable.

Make no mistake - such a protected video can still be stolen by skilled experts. However, it will prevent theft by almost all normal users. Even the user somehow manages to download the video file (e.g. using Internet Download Manager), he cannot do anything useful with it because it is encrypted. Only a skilled hacker can obtain the encryption key.

This type of protection is required by all premium content providers (movie studios) and quite widespread. I work with the Microsoft PlayReady technology, which seems to be the most popular DRM technology in widespread use.

My employer provides the SilverHD DRM service, which enables you to protect your videos with PlayReady and present them on all modern platforms, for a small monthly fee. Playback on mobile platforms is currently more expensive, due to the need to license a player component for them (Microsoft provides free players for their own platforms, including Silverlight in any modern PC/Mac browser). If you are interested in a commercial solution, feel free to get in touch via the link on the website.

For a demonstration, please see the Video Paradise sample website. I guarantee that you cannot steal these movies without major effort.

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please, can you give me a link of website that has DRM service. I'm still sure that any content can be downloaded :( I leave in Republic of Georgia and some videos can't be opened. I'm limited in checking the protection, but as I said before , I have checked one; I entered to a website which was protected by brightcove.com service, videos were not free, and to view the video content you should have payed for it. I tried to check. When I clicked on a video with a cost of 1.99$ it was not streaming, but a trial program I have installed (IDM) already was ready to download the video... –  Gio May 31 '13 at 10:02
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Make no mistake - such a protected video can still be stolen by skilled experts. However, it will prevent theft by almost all normal users. -- Of course, normal users will just go to thepiratebay.sx and get a copy made available by the skilled experts. –  André Paramés May 31 '13 at 10:13
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I think the naïve and misleading answer is this one. The other answers are well aware of the existence of DRM technology and have given excellent explanations of why it doesn't (and cannot) work. By the way, the 'major effort' in my case was three and a half minutes and that included me writing this comment. –  Marcks Thomas May 31 '13 at 11:19
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@Gio - please contact info@axinom.com to get more info about the SilverHD DRM service. The price is not very high in my opinion (cannot discuss details in public forum). –  Sander May 31 '13 at 13:07
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"making it hard to discover" == security by obscurity (i.e., worthless). –  Ghillie Dhu May 31 '13 at 16:19

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