Is the tide turning against online pirates?

Pirates move at internet speed. Unhindered by rules and regulations they continually adapt; leaving the content owners, media industry and legal institutions to play catchup. My earlier blog highlighted 3 initiatives in the fight against piracy , and in the last month or so there are more examples of how the tide might be starting to turn against the pirates.

European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling
Recently, the ECJ ruled on a long running case between BREIN (the Dutch anti-piracy group) and Filmspeler.nl, that selling streaming devices preloaded with pirate streaming links and add-ons is illegal. Although the devices themselves, in their unaltered state, are legal – it’s the act of configuring them or “fully-loading” them that the ECJ ruled was illegal. Not only that but persons knowingly involved, who facilitated piracy – ‘making a communication to the public’ – were also breaking the law. Why is this good news?

As it’s Europe’s highest court that decreed it’s illegal, it’s made it easier for other member states to follow suit. Plus, the ruling has set a precedent for other devices that are fully-loaded. With this ruling any enforcement actions that result in civil action or criminal prosecution should end badly for the online pirates.

UK Digital Economy Act
This Act was passed into law on 27 April 2017 increasing the maximum prison sentence for those who knowingly make infringing content available online from two to ten years. The intention of the Act is to deter commercial scale infringement and further increases the risk for UK pirates who illegally stream or share content including live sports, movies and TV shows on a commercial scale.

Shifting Sands at Alibaba
Disrupting the pirate’s promotional activities is another way to tackle online piracy. Irdeto continually examines the pirate landscape to track their movements. Recent industry consultation with Alibaba has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of listings for illicit streaming devices using terms including “fully loaded, preloaded, jailbroken, unlocked” during the month of May. We continue to monitor the situation and work closely with Alibaba to address the problem.

It’s certainly welcoming that e-commerce sites are responsive to removing the adverts. But it would be even more effective to adopt an Amazon-like approach to proactively block pirate adverts being posted.

Facebook Comes to The Party
In other welcome news, Facebook has updated its Commerce Policy to prohibit the sale of “products or items that facilitate or encourage unauthorised access to digital media”. It will be interesting to see the effectiveness of the automation being introduced by Facebook to enforce this policy and its long term impact in reducing the large amount of Facebook listings for illicit streaming devices and services.

Momentum needs to continue
There’s no doubt that these initiatives are moving us in the right direction. But we can’t rest on our laurels. To successfully fight the growing problem of online piracy it requires all of us to work together as a team!

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