Piracy in the Age of IP Video

Consumers spend a lot of time with screen-based entertainment, and video pirates are waiting to serve them.  Not only does piracy create personal risks for consumers, it also undercuts the ability for creative professionals, content providers, service providers and the broader media industry to sustain their businesses and provide the informational and entertainment programming that consumers demand. 

What is Video Piracy?

Piracy is the theft and unlicensed re-distribution of broadcast sports and other live event programming, studio-produced movies and programming designed for television.

Forms of piracy include:

  • The theft of content (such as independently produced video, movies, TV programs, sports broadcasts, and personal content distributed over social media),
  • The theft of service (pay TV, streaming / OTT),
  • The theft of software (reverse engineering of legitimate software or apps to distribute infringing content or deposit malicious software),
  • The theft of distribution capacity (network providers must over-provision their networks to simultaneously meet service quality expectations while accommodating pirate traffic that the network provider is not equipped to detect or deter),
  • The theft of advertising (Legitimate ads that are re-directed to run via illegal apps or illicit streaming Web sites. Phishing campaigns that masquerade as legitimate promotions; which can inflict damage on the consumer,  causing damage to the reputations of legitimate advertisers that become associated with a subsequent pirate attack, and waste advertising expenditures),
  • The “Theft of you,” including personal data, device capacity, personal broadband access.  
In a nutshell, piracy is copyright infringement, it’s theft, it has real and lasting effects on consumers, rights-holders and service providers – and – it deprives working creative professionals of their livelihoods.

How does it happen?

Pirates seek to profit by redistributing stolen video services and assets on a mass scale.  They may also collaborate with organized crime, and even with nation-state actors, to maximize their opportunities to profit.

Theft can happen anywhere there’s a hand-off between two processes, from video capture and production, breaches in data centers, broadcast and headend facilities, CAS breaches, in distribution and the cloud, from within consumer devices, by stealing access credentials, and more.

Pirates masquerade as legitimate service providers by using professionally designed experiences and high production values. Consumers are lured in by lineups and prices that seem too good to be true.  

Why should we care?

It isn’t just bad for business: piracy creates huge headaches for consumers, from stolen passwords, implanted malware and ransomware, and exposure to huge broadband bills when their user accounts are hijacked.  Scores of low-cost illicit streaming devices are available to consumers at retail.

By 2022, an estimated 20% of all consumer video traffic over fixed broadband access will go to connected TV sets, and 40% of it will go to mobile.  Piracy has made illegal use and rights-infringement a worldwide concern.

What do we do about it?

Anti-piracy really boils down to detection and mitigation, based on effective analysis.  Analytics really has two faces. The side of analytics that’s best known by the media industry is about opportunity: Optimizing exposure to content and services, audience targeting and advertising.

The other side of analytics is about loss prevention: to reduce theft by detecting when and where content may be found outside of its licensed channels of distribution.  And then stopping further losses from happening by use of technological countermeasures, industry collaboration, law enforcement, legislative and educational channels.

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