How Custos creates a turnkey, secure video distribution solution using blockchain technology and forensic watermarking

Custos's turnkey, secure video distribution solution

In 2013 I did a deep dive into the piracy ecosystem and the technologies available on both the piracy and anti-piracy sides, as research for my thesis on the economics of piracy. I was amazed at how far the piracy side had come — cloud hosting had evolved into peer-to-peer sharing sites, then into peer-to-peer streaming services, then to services using blockchain technology to monetize the piracy ecosystem. On the other hand, I was shocked by how little was available on the anti-piracy side. I thought everyone knew that hard DRM was dead, but seemed it was still an industry favourite.

There had been a handful of incremental improvements to forensic watermarking, but it was still too cumbersome and expensive to use at scale. There had not been any real innovation in the space for years, which meant that all the resources that the industry was throwing at the problem were not enough to overcome the superior technology of the piracy community.

Custos entered this market in a similar way as when the PC entered the typewriter market. The PC was more than just a better typewriter — it was a paradigm shift in how we recorded information. The PC is superior to a typewriter in typing, but can also fulfil a range of functions that made the life of the user easier. The Custos technology solves piracy, but also provides a turnkey solution for secure video distribution.

We did a competitor analysis recently and looked at what the Custos product is substituting for our customers:

Physical Distribution

You’d be surprised how many DVD screeners are still couriered in the film industry. Who still owns a DVD drive? For our customers in developing countries (and in the US *cough* net neutrality *cough*), however, streaming services are not always an option for HD movies. The Custos protection solved this problem by providing protection even for downloaded movie files that can be viewed on any device. On Screener Copy, viewers have the option to download their secure copy.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is amazing, don’t get me wrong. All the Custos content is stored on the Amazon Web Services cloud storage, which allows us to keep it in data centres close to where you want to serve it. Sharing a download link to an unprotected cloud-hosted movie, however, is not better than couriering a DVD in terms of security.

Video Sharing Services

I’m an avid patron of the YouTube channel AvE. It’s a guy tinkering in his workshop while giving social commentary and making rude jokes — what’s not to love? He relies on patrons to keep him going, not on the box office or DVD sales. As he would say, power to him! YouTube is perfect for him! YouTube is a video sharing platform, and although it and other sharing platforms make a big effort to secure your content, its core purpose is the sharing of content. If you want secure distribution, get a platform that has security at its core purpose.


Watermarking can either be visible or invisible (forensic), but in both cases, it is used to add uniquely identifiable information to a video (if you want to read our recent whitepaper on forensic watermarking, click here). This falls under what is called “social DRM,” where users are told that the video can be traced to them and are therefore afraid of getting caught if it is pirated. This is great, but only one component of an effective solution. If you watermark your movie, it can be tracked to the initial uploader — but that’s only if you manage to find it.

Piracy Scanners

To find pirated content you need a piracy scanning service. The basic services are cheap: you can get far with just a Google Alert. The more advance services scan more broadly and deeper into the internet. For the most part, however, these services can’t go much deeper than Google can. So there’s the public internet, that shows up when you search for it on Google. That’s about 4% of the internet by data. The Deep Web is the part that’s behind passwords or paywalls; that’s about 90% of the internet. The Dark Web is about 6% of the internet, and that’s the part of the internet for which you either need software (like a Tor-compatible browser) to use, or special access to the network itself (like a college campus intranet). The Dark Web has some scary nefarious sites that can be damaging to children and society, like Facebook, but also provides a ‘network of last resort’ for journalists, freedom fighters, or the censored or repressed. Piracy scanners can only search that 4% of the public internet, while most early-stage piracy happens in the Deep Web, which significantly limits its efficacy.

Custos combines secure video distribution with watermarking and real-time piracy scanning anywhere piracy happens.

If you are interested to see how we do this, you can read our previous blog post.

The combination of these features makes Custos the PC of video distribution — it is the innovation the industry has been hoping for. But don’t believe us, believe the results: The industry average for screener leaks is about 20%. With over 180 000 movies distributed we have had 0 leaks. We actually have an international prize-winning mathlete on the Custos team, and I confirmed the calculation with him — that’s 0% leaks.

If this solution could help you, feel free to take it for a test drive on a free trial at

This post was originally published on Medium, by our COO, Fred Lutz

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