2022 Highlights US: Law suits and shut-downs are weapons of choice. DMCA update in progress

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The number of requests to infringing Web sites worldwide increased by an estimated 22% in 2022, with film requests growing the most.  Of the top 15 countries accessing illegal channels, the United States was at the top with more than 15 billion visits, according to piracy measurement expert MUSO.  But US-based initiatives were responsible for a multitude of anti-piracy interventions around the world and US lawmakers made some progress toward updating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

At the US federal level, the process of modernizing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has been incremental and slow.  Industry organizations against piracy have carried much of the anti-piracy burden at an execution level.

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US federal law enforcement has also been active against large piracy operations illegally distributing US-made content, often by supporting anti-piracy initiatives in other countries, such as Operation 404, a multi-year anti-piracy program spearheaded by Brazil’s Ministry of Justice.

Industry collaboration

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) has expanded its membership roster beyond the major movie studios, which now surpasses 50 member companies.  Companies joining in 2022 included sports broadcasters and media companies outside the US.   ACE announced major piracy site shut-downs around the world, throughout the year, including Nitro IPTV, YMovies, SPARKS Group, and other operations in Brazil, Peru, North Africa and Thailand.  ACE announced collaborations with beIN Media Group, Cavea Plus, MBC Group, United Media, FIFA and additional media industry stakeholders.

ACE has also bolstered its relationships with government agencies, including the US Dept of Homeland Security, and the government of Singapore

The International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy (IBCAP) has expanded its own membership roster by adding broadcasters and TV programmers based outside the United States that have distribution agreements in the US with operators such as DISH Network.  IBCAP supports its members by detecting instances of piracy, building evidence against infringers, and supporting law suits by its members against pirates.  New members for 2022 included BBC Studios, E.W.Scripps and RadarSat, which represents a portfolio of programming from Poland.

Recent IBCAP-supported anti-piracy cases include judgments against Super Arab IPTV, iStar, a $25M judgment against MyIndianTV, Atlas Electronics, UlaiTV and others.

Regulatory action

A long-anticipated update to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to bring it into the streaming age, made minor progress during 2022.  Senate Bill 3880, the SMART Copyright Act of 2022 was introduced in the US Senate in May as a bi-partisan initiative of US Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and US Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC.  A counterpart measure was introduced in the US House of Representatives as HR-9541, the SMART Copyright Act of 2023 by Judy Chu, D-CA; in December 2022.

Under current US law, online service providers are not held responsible for infringement facilitiated through their platforms, providing that they collaborate with the rights-holder community to develop “‘standardized technical measures’ (STMs) to identify and protect against the distribution of stolen content” while protecting ISPs from liability under qualifying conditions.

One of the several declarations in the SMART bill is that service providers must “accommodate and not interfere with” STMs to qualify for safe harbor immunity for copyright infringement on their services.

In support of the SMART Copyright Act bills, and in an effort to update Section 512 of the DMCA, the US Copyright Office ran a commentary period in May to collect public recommendations toward STMs.  The US Copyright office transmitted its resulting recommendations to Senators Leahy and Tillis in late December 2022.

As of January 2023, both SMART bills had been assigned to committees, effectively tabled at least for the moment as both houses of the US Congress have turnover as a result of the November 2022 US national election.

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