ACE wins pirate site shutdowns in Middle East and Vietnam

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The Alliance for Creativity and Media (ACE) announced several wins against piracy during February.  In Vietnam, a Hanoi-based piracy ring targeted a global audience with English language programming.  Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities, supported by ACE, shut down Shahed4U, which was said to have been the largest piracy ring in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region.  This follows on the heels of Egypt’s MyCima shutdown earlier in February.

Operating since at least 2015, the Shahed4U ring was based in Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt. More than 25 percent of the traffic came from Egypt, with the rest in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Turkey, and Jordan.  Shahed4U offered a total of 68,000 pirated TV series titles and 18,700 film titles affecting all ACE members and other local content creators.

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As of February 2022, the Shahed4U piracy ring comprised more than 118 domains and multiple copycat sites. The service drew a staggering 155 million visits per month (all domains combined), marking a milestone for ACE as its largest-ever takedown in the MENA region.

Image source: Google Search result for shahed4u

Combined with the shutdown of Egybest in 2019, the shutdowns of Shahed4U and MyCima represent the closure of the top three piracy sites in the MENA region and Arabic-speaking countries worldwide.

USTVGO had been operating since 2018

The Hanoi-based live-streaming piracy site USTVGO was providing illicit access to more than 100 live channels, including sports channels, the majority of which belonged to ACE members. Prior to the shutdown of USTVGO and its associated domains, it was averaging more than 16 million visits per month, with 75% of the traffic originating in the United States.

USTVGO’s Kodi app was available for many Android-powered devices, including the Amazon Fire Stick, Fire TV, Fire TV Cube, NVIDIA Shield.

Courts and other relevant authorities in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore had previously found USTVGO domains were infringing and ordered ISPs to block them. Nonetheless, the sites had continued operating out of Vietnam until ACE’s direct enforcement action.

Further reading

ACE joins forces with Egyptian authorities to shut down largest piracy ring in Middle East-North Africa region.  Press release. February 27, 2023. ACE

Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment shuts down international piracy operation in Vietnam.  Press release. February 28, 2023. ACE

Why it matters

These actions underscore the value of collaboration; in these cases, between ACE and two of its members and Egyptian law enforcement. For the Shahed4U takedown, ACE worked closely with MENA broadcast media companies OSN and MBC, which recently joined ACE.

“The shutting down of these sites is a great step towards the protection of rights within the media industry and a key effort towards growing the creative ecosystem within the region and globally,” said Joe Kawkabani, CEO of OSN.

Natasha Matos-Hemingway, Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer at Shahid, the world’s largest Arabic streaming platform by MBC GROUP, commented, “We’re incredibly grateful to ACE and the Egyptian authorities for their dedication towards cracking down on piracy. This is a significant victory for content creators, studios, and production houses who work tirelessly to produce quality TV series and films. This latest action, along with the recent closures of Egybest and MyCima, demonstrates ACE’s continued commitment to protecting the intellectual property rights of our producers.”

“Our latest action is further proof that ACE is successfully fighting piracy operators in Vietnam and across the Asia-Pacific region,” said Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Global Content Protection Chief for the Motion Picture Association and Head of ACE. “Vietnamese piracy operators have been associated with some of the world’s most egregious piracy services, which cause significant damage to the local and international marketplaces and make Vietnam a piracy hotspot. We have identified several piracy operators in Vietnam besides USTVGO and are making use of all available tools to shut them down.”

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