Adobe's Emerging Rich Media Ecosystem, Part 3: Marketing, Service Level Agreements, and Security
Figure 3: Flash Media Server security architecture.
Digital Rights Management
FMRMS runs on Windows Server and Red Hat Linux to offer content protection and business rules for playback and repurposing of offline content. FMRMS works with applications built on Adobe AIR, such as Adobe Media Player, to extend control of Flash content—even after it's been downloaded. Content owners can set customized restrictions including how long the content can be viewed, whether an ad needs to be watched first, and who can view it.
Content could be set to require confirmation of playback each time—meaning that a device would require an Internet connection each time "offline" content was accessed—or could be set to require a connection every so many days, weeks, or months.
Media broadcasters could potentially set the access requirements and expiration flags of content that is being streamed both on request, but more importantly dynamically after the file has been distributed.
The content owners I've referred to above include:
- Enterprises who want to deliver video content securely to employees and partners
- Film and television studios or producers or online video content creators
- Content distributors such as Internet Service Providers or online video rental outlets
- Companies with a significant Internet multimedia presence, such as sports and entertainment sites
Content owners and publishers can make money with FMRMS through advertising and licensing. FMRMS, by signing a digital playlist, locks advertising together with content so they always play together. Adobe Media Player offers additional branding opportunities with banners, in-rolls, and overlays. FMRMS, in conjunction with existing user authentication and order management systems, grants a license to individual users for a particular piece of content.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) for offline content isn't new. Apple implements it with every music purchase, but Adobe's approach gives the content holder more options. The DRM can be as restrictive as the content owner wants.
Note: I doubt that Adobe has any illusions that FMRMS will stop copyright infringement—any more than dozens of other DRM systems have done so—but the introduction of encryption does give Adobe and its customers a powerful new legal weapon against competitors and ordinary users through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Under section 1204, penalties range up to a $500,000 fine or up to five years' imprisonment for a first offense, and up to a $1,000,000 fine or up to 10 years' imprisonment for subsequent offenses.
This article, the third in a series, was preceded by:
- Adobe's Emerging Rich Media Ecosystem, Part 1: Developing Social Media Applications
- Adobe's Emerging Rich Media Ecosystem, Part 2: Live and Video on Demand Streaming Media Applications
And, the series itself was preceded by:
Taken together, these four articles provide an overview of an evolving ecosystem for developing, deploying, and managing rich media applications, albeit an ecosystem from only one vendor. However, so far, this one vendor has a commanding lead in the marketplace and, so, in my opinion, anyone with responsibilities in this area ought to have at least passing familiarity with the topics covered above.
Flash Media Server
Delivering your content with Flash Media Server provides even more protection than that provided by Flash Player alone:
- No client cache: Flash video and audio content delivered to Flash Player using a normal web server are delivered through progressive download. This content is cached on the end user's hard drive and can be easily accessed—and possibly stolen by the user. By contrast, video, audio and data streamed to Flash clients using Flash Media Server are not cached on local client machines. You can deliver MP3 files and other media safely and securely knowing that your web site visitors will not be able to go to their Temporary Internet Files folder and obtain your media file assets.
- No exposed media on the server: When you deliver Flash audio and video using progressive download, the content is exposed on a web server. Savvy computer users may be able to obtain the URL of the web server on which the content is stored and access the content directly. In fact, there are a couple of services, such as KeepVid, which use this exact technique to capture Flash progressive download video and save it to a client's disk. With Flash Media Server, however, the content is not exposed to HTTP, FTP, or other transfer mechanisms, so media cannot be copied down from the server.
- Proxy server capability: Content streamed from Flash Media Server is not only safe from being grabbed from a server, but Flash Media Server even comes in an Edge Edition that you can place on a server outside the firewall, making it act as a reverse proxy serving up content pulled from an Origin Edition on a server that is behind the firewall. This way, your media files are safely kept behind your firewall and no content is stored on a machine that is accessible to the Internet.
- Unique transfer protocol limits stream ripping: By default, content delivered by Flash Media Server is wrapped inside the Adobe RTMP protocol. Because this is an unpublished, proprietary format, none of the RTSP stream ripping programs have the capability to rip media delivered over Flash Media Server. This minimizes the ability of unauthorized programs to capture a digital media stream from Flash Media Server to Flash Player.
- Support for SSL and encrypted streams: Flash Media Server provides the ability to deliver encrypted streams to provide the tightest layer of security for delivering digital media. When you use this option, the server encrypts all audio, video, and data streams prior to transport. Once they are safely delivered to the client, Flash Player decrypts the content in real time and provides it to the user. This encryption is invoked when the client sends information to the server as well, providing the best way to protect content as it travels between the client and server.
- Client information: When a client connects to Flash Media Server, Flash Player passes certain information about the client up to the server. Information such as the domain or IP address from which the client is connecting can be used to prevent deep linking and other thefts. You can also use this for syndicating content or a player and content to authorized partners.
Note: Some services erroneously claim to capture "streaming" Flash video, but what they really mean is "HTTP streaming" or progressive download.
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