Dirty web video secret: If you can see it, you can steal it

People often ask us for a mythical technology that will make it impossible for their videos to be stolen. Unfortunately, this mythical technology is just that - mythical. Just look at the movie studios’ situation. They’ve sunk gobs of money into preventing piracy and yet snatching an illegal copy of any movie is as easy as jumping onto BitTorrent.

Stealing user-made videos isn't as easy as going on BitTorrent, but it's close. Grab your favorite screencasting tool or go low-tech and point a camera at the screen while the video’s playing. If you can see it, you can steal it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel comfortable putting sensitive videos online. You just need one thing: trust.

However, we’ve come up with what we think is a pretty good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t send it in an email, you shouldn’t put it in an online video.

If you’re concerned about sending a confidential video to a coworker, you should probably re-examine your coworker’s status as an employee.

If you’re selling access to content and you’re concerned about pirating, you should think about your customer’s motivation. Why would they pirate the very thing they just purchased?

The Steps to Take

You can’t guarantee that a video can’t be copied, but you can make it harder by limiting the people with access to the video, by letting those people know that you can track how they view your videos, and by putting some reasonable technological hurdles in the way.

Track the viewing

Online video has one major advantage over theaters and DVDs: you can track the videos to see who’s watching. If you know who’s watching your video (and you should if you’re selling content or sending information to coworkers), you can respond to pirating with real world consequences.

Control the environment

Don’t push people to a publicly available link; force them to log in. Forcing a login will show you who’s watching, make it possible to revoke access, and give you more insight into malicious activities.

Just Remember

Even though people can steal your content if they want, most of them won’t. The most important step you can take is to understand the risks and embrace them.

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