Piracy continues to be a major challenge for media and broadcast organisations, with the shift to IP presenting new opportunities for pirates. How can the industry safeguard content distribution in an OTT world?

streaming movie piracy torrent

Streaming piracy: Webinar discusses the problems still facing online content

With more media companies shifting to OTT and IP-led services, the piracy landscape is changing.

Valuable content rights drive direct-to-consumer platforms making it more essential than ever to protect content from illegal use and avoid revenue loss.

That means content owners are in a constant battle, to protect their content on its journey into the homes of legitimate customers without degrading the levels of service.

In the latest IBC365 webinar, experts on battling piracy discuss how to safeguard content as more of it moves towards OTT.

This is a particular issue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. According to figures from Sandvine, 23% of internet users across MENA and Turkey have subscribed to a pirate IPTV service. This compares with 5.8% in Europe and 6.9% in the US.

BeIN Media Group legal director for anti-piracy Cameron Andrews outlined streaming piracy as any restreaming of content over the internet illegally. This may be legitimately obtained – for example through a legitimate subscription – but then shared across other platforms illegitimately. Or it could be as simple as recording a legitimate stream using a smartphone and sharing through social media.

“We think of piracy as an ecosystem because there a lot of different players involved,” explains Andrews, who points to hardware manufacturers, app developers, the pirates themselves and wholesalers and resellers who can all be involved in piracy.

He identifies four options to tackle piracy but says all have significant flaws as well. These are:

  1. Sending takedown notices to third parties in that ecosystem who are facilitating piracy;
  2. Use fingerprinting/ watermarking to discover and kill subscriptions used by pirates for re-streams;
  3. Investigate and take legal action against pirates;
  4. Work with ISPs to block customers from accessing pirated services.

“You will always have piracy to some extent,” he adds. “But it is about containing it. It’s about making the pirated product less attractive to the consumer than the legitimate product.

“Through pursuing each of these elements, plus cooperation effort in the background and better laws, we can go a long way to containing piracy. But we shouldn’t underestimate just how difficult it is to lock up content so it can’t be pirated.

Joining Andrews on the webinar is Sheila Cassells, EVP at the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA). AAPA brings together more than 30 different players across the entire content change to try and tackle piracy.

Illegal streaming has seen a significant drop in the cost of entry for pirates, according to Cassells, meaning you only need access to a legitimate stream and the right tools in order to become a pirate.

“It’s almost becoming out of control,” she explains. “It’s not a case of winning the battle – I don’t think we’ll ever win it outright. It is a case of containing it, mitigating it, and working together to minimise the damage being caused.

“It’s also important to work alongside law enforcement to ensure they have the correct knowledge to fight it when they want to go down that route and work with the other players who facilitate piracy, knowingly or unknowingly, to reduce it.”

Asked if consumers are knowingly paying for pirated services, Cassells says that a lot of pirated offerings have a significant number of channels compared with legitimate services making it obvious that it is “a bit dodgy”.

“There is a large element of consumers who are buying pirated services knowingly and for many, the fear of penalty for doing so isn’t great,” she adds. “Some countries will take legal action against the end user but in many the impact on the end user is just that the pirated service is stopped or they lose some subscriptions, but then are free to find another pirated service.”

She challenged the private sector to work together to tackle piracy and “take coordinated action where required”.

Also on the webinar is Daniel Woolnough, director at Content Protection Experts, an organisation that aims to tackle piracy.

“Technology is not the entire solution,” he explains. It is vital for content owners to develop a strategy going across the entire space. “Point solutions are not necessarily the answer to this as they have small impacts.

“Developing a plan, making sure that plan is realistic, and the goals are measurable is critical because generally, an anti-piracy campaign will cost money so quantifiable results are key.”

Senior level buy-in is also important. Having senior backing for an anti-piracy plan helps to overcome resource issues that are commonplace.

Giving their biggest tips for tackling piracy, Cassells says companies need to give resource and priority to anti-piracy and work closely with technology partners and other partners to dampen piracy as much as possible.

Woolnough agrees that cooperation is vital. He says that challenging suppliers and technology partners over the capabilities of an anti-piracy solution is important too.

For Andrews, it is a cross-business issue. “It impacts all different parts of the business, from the valuation, through to how you build your platform, and how you structure your offering.”