What is multi-DRM, and why has it become relevant? To answer this question, we first have to make the definition of “DRM” clear. DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management, is the component of a content platform that regulates who accesses certain media by fulfilling these tasks:
Intro to the multi-DRM world for content platforms
Digital Rights Management services, or DRM, is the tech that regulates content access to authorized users. Find out how it works in this intro to multi-DRM.
Generation of content keys.
Video encryption via a content key.
Channel video distribution.
Content key access to authorized users.
Control of what authorized users may do with the video content.
The main DRM vendors in the streaming industry are Google Widevine, Apple FairPlay, and Microsoft PlayReady. Let’s now have a closer look at how these independent DRMs are integrated with different VOD, streaming, and OTT services.
What are content platforms and how they integrate DRM services
There are many things that can be called platforms–including the hardware of a smart device, an operating system like Windows, a browser such as Chrome, and even software on which a specific video player runs, like Silverlight. All of these are equivalent in what concerns multi-DRM technology.
These very different platforms usually include an embedded DRM component somewhere in the hardware or the operating system. The multi-DRM integration can also be part of a third-party solution. For example, Google Chrome incorporates a different DRM than the one belonging to the platform on which it is running (e.g. Windows). Therefore, the Chrome DRM component can be still called native–since it is a native element of the Chrome platform.
The following list outlines some video multi drm services and the platforms in which they are used
|Native DRM technology
Internet Explorer, Silverlight, Windows Phone, Windows Store apps, Xbox
How do DRMs regulate content playback
Some players embed a DRM component to play back videos protected with non-native DRM encryption. Although the intention might be good, it is better to build a platform that comes with its own native DRM, as the practice of using players with non-native DRM is declining. For example, Microsoft’s PlayReady Client SDK includes a player and DRM component that can be used together to display PlayReady-protected media on Android, even if Android’s native DRM technology is Widevine. You can learn more details about multi-DRM compatibility across devices and platforms in future Axinom blog posts.
Without a standardized EME and CDM APIs, decryption is only be possible using a native player or a browser plugin. This is often cumbersome to install for viewers and does not provide the security that Hollywood studios mandate. Fortunately, EME is a standard API, which means that any player that uses it can communicate with all existing CDMs. For example, although Chrome employs Widevine and Internet Explorer uses PlayReady, both CMDs are accessible through EME.
How multi-DRMs simplify playback and content management
Since the implementation of industry standards like CMAF (Common Media Application Format), CENC (Common Encryption Scheme), and the CBCS encryption mode, it is possible to access a single encrypted video using different DRM solutions. This requires content platforms to provide DRM licenses based on the the end-user, and has led to the emergence of multi-DRM services.
Considering all these technicalities, multi-DRM management might seem confusing at first. In reality, there are many alternatives that simplify security management for platform developers. Multi-DRM services, like Axinom DRM, offer unified interfaces that apply the same business logic for different DRM technologies, so the user experience remains the same no matter the device used. Since the appropriate license for decryption is given automatically by the multi-DRM licensing service, media playback using Axinom DRM has a 99.999% service availability.
It is important to note that many DRMs protect content up to the point of playback. However, they can be combined with other applications (such as forensic watermarking) to further deter piracy and avoid user abuse. In addition, Axinom DRM can also be used in disconnected environments like airplanes, ferries, buses, and hospitality locations with limited connectivity.
As you can see, multi-DRMs are one of the cornerstones of content-first platforms nowadays. By simplifying the way users access media, multi-DRMs help platform developers create experiences that focus more on the content than on the technical aspects of video delivery.