A man applies forensic watermarking to a video project using two screens

Secure high-value content with forensic watermarking

When producing content, perfecting your work and increasing the bottom line is only half of the climb. In a landscape where the extent of freedom of information is debated, the other half is ensuring that your content doesn’t end up in the wrong hands—or distributed or consumed illegally.  

Data piracy is believed to have stemmed around the mid-1970s and has evolved over the decades, permeating film, music, TV, books, and more. History has seen content from high-profile movies like X-Men: Origins WolverineStar Wars: Episode III, and Deadpool, among others, leaked online, leading to revised scripts, financial loss, and court cases.  

As content libraries inevitably multiply and channels diversify, it’s paramount to routinely check your security best practices and see what platforms or workflows need upgrading.  

One of the ways enterprises can enhance content security is by leveraging watermarking, from visual to forensic, especially when working with content with high production value. Below, we outline forensic watermarking and its importance, how it differs from visual watermarking, and how Ci Media Cloud can help safeguard your sensitive content.

What is forensic watermarking?

Leaks can occur at any point in the media lifecycle, from pre-production to distribution. To combat security breaches, enterprises use forensic watermarking to embed an invisible identifier in their most prized intellectual property (IP) so that in the instance that any watermarked content is leaked, the owner can trace it back to the party responsible.  

Forensic watermarking is commonly implemented by content owners, broadcasters, filmmakers, and major film studios, during and after production. These watermarks can be added to any valuable content, such as camera footage, concept art, audio recordings, scripts, or trailers. Forensic watermarking is especially necessary for projects that involve large organizations, where content is shared widely and there’s potential for a file to be misappropriated. For instance, a feature film can cross thousands of hands across hundreds of partners, spanning post-production houses, DI facilities, VFX vendors, creative agencies, and distribution partners.   

Why is forensic watermarking important, and how does it enhance content security? 

Forensic watermarking can serve as an effective and preventative security measure towards limiting the illegal distribution of confidential content during the full pre-release process. When it’s known by your users and collaborators that your content is watermarked, and therefore is traceable and identifiable, internal or third parties are significantly deterred from sharing watermarked content. And if a leak does occur, forensic watermarking makes it possible to trace back to the exact source and can assist in legal enforcement.

On the contrary, when perpetrators get away with leaks, they may feel emboldened to strike again in the future. When no security practices are implemented, leaks can proliferate. Consequences of a leak can include:

  • Financial impact due to lost revenue or contractual breaches
  • Loss of competitive advantage
  • Undermining of marketing strategies
  • Subversion of the creator’s artistic vision
  • Reputational damage

How does forensic watermarking differ from visual watermarking?

Forensic and visual watermarks are differentiated by visibility and how they function. Simply put, forensic watermarks are invisible, while visual watermarks are visible and can be ‘burned-in’ to images or videos. An advantage of forensic watermarking is that creatives can view and engage with content, obstruction-free. For example, analyzing details pixel by pixel in a review can be difficult when there’s a text overlay in the way.  

And unlike visual watermarks, files that are forensically watermarked are tagged with an invisible unique watermark that can be tracked. In the event of a leak, you can trace back the source of the leak with this unique watermark ID.   

Does Ci offer forensic watermarking?

Securing our users’ content is top of mind at Ci Media Cloud. Ci offers password protection and expiration dates for shared content and end-to-end encryption on files, to name a few. But we understand that some content requires heightened levels of security. Thus, in 2023, Ci partnered with NAGRA, a leading independent provider of content protection and media and entertainment solutions.  

Ci’s Advanced Watermark Security package empowers enterprise customers to actively protect their prized possession—their intellectual property. This optional add-on package includes forensic watermarking “out of the box” without requiring customers to buy or bring their own license. Natively integrated with Ci’s MediaBox sharing tool, NAGRA’s NexGuard Watermarking can safeguard thousands of videos and includes annual forensic investigations.  

The Advanced Watermark Security package also includes the Watermarked Workspace feature, which allows administrators to ensure that all files are automatically visually watermarked inside of Ci. 

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Whether it’s automating the creation of proxies with watermarks, enabling downloads with dynamic burned-in watermarks, or embedding trackable forensic watermarks, Ci helps organizations collectively save hundreds or even thousands of hours protecting their content. Instead of copying, adding watermarks, and rendering files manually and individually, users can configure watermarks on content in just a few clicks, freeing them from mundane processing tasks. By offering these security enhancements, Ci offers your team the freedom to create and work on high-value content with peace of mind—all while saving time, effort, and ultimately, dollars.  

Keeping content under lock and key  

Watermarking plays a large role in protecting digital content and creators’ ownership. Here at Ci, we work with some of the biggest names in media, entertainment, and music, housing hundreds of millions of their files. To safeguard content, we ensure that the right people view the right content at the right time.   

For more on forensic watermarking* and what it can do for your organization, contact our Customer Success team here.

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