Video Technology

Creating a Content Protection Policy with Multi-key DRM

December 8, 2021

Shift72 has been at the forefront of Digital Rights Management (DRM) since its inception. Security is the foundation upon which distributor trust is built and DRM is its footing, offering a variety of protections to ensure digital content is only accessible to authorized users including encryption, geoblocking, and output protections.

But as pirates become more savvy in their methods for accessing and distributing unauthorized content, DRM has evolved to offer even stronger security measures that reduce the risk of piracy.

One such evolution is multi-key DRM, which works in tandem with the same basic protections as traditional DRM, but is more sensitive at detecting the potential risk associated with various devices used for streaming. Once a device’s risk factor has been assessed, multi-key DRM mitigates that risk by determining whether HD or SD titles will be provided on playback, or if it will be blocked entirely.

This multi-key DRM technology creates a new content protection policy for video on demand (VOD) platforms that allows administrators to identify their most vulnerable content and add an additional layer of security to protect it from theft.

Delivery Policy 

When a film is added to a VOD platform, the platform administrator (in this case, a film festival, cinema, etc.) decides each individual film’s risk for piracy and determines the delivery policy multi-key DRM will provide (HD, SD, or no playback).

For example, films that are premiering or are new releases, are highly anticipated, or have significant production costs may be considered high-risk for piracy and administrators can choose to restrict playback to SD across the board, limit HD viewing to specific devices and/or software, or block access entirely. As SD content is typically unfavorable to pirates, blocking access to the more desirable HD version offers an additional layer of protection to films susceptible to theft, as does blocking playback entirely if the risk is considered high.

Content Protection Policy and Risk Assessment 

Multi-key DRM creates a content protection policy that assesses risk based on three criteria:

  • Device type 

Some devices, like a laptop, can be easily modified with piracy software, making films more vulnerable during playback. Other devices, like a Chromecast, are more secure because they are much more difficult to modify.


  • Software 

Similarly, there’s trust variation among different browsers and apps. For example, the pre-installed Safari browser on a Mac laptop comes with Apple’s built-in DRM security features to prevent piracy methods like screen capturing, but the user-installed Firefox browser on the same Mac laptop does not, which leaves a film more susceptible to piracy. 

The same is true for different apps on devices: iOS and Android apps have more protections than user-created apps.


  • Hardware 

External hardware can be modified to allow for piracy methods like screen capturing, output capturing, and video tampering. 


Content Protection Policy in Action

Let’s look at three examples to demonstrate how multi-key DRM assesses different risk profiles based on an administrator’s delivery policy.


As these examples demonstrate, a content protection policy with multi-key DRM allows for more nuanced playback options than traditional DRM security measures alone. It’s also more reassuring to studios and distributors who can feel confident that their most in-demand content will be protected from the threat of piracy associated with high-risk devices.


While encryption may still be the foundation of DRM, the more sensitive and individualized protections offered by multi-key DRM are hot on encryption’s heels. A content protection policy with multi-key DRM can offer your cinema or festival the cutting edge in technology, earning trust with studios and distributors and establishing your place in the frontier of VOD security.


To learn more about how security measures build confidence with distributors, download

Security: The Foundation of Film Distributor Trust

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