The fight against piracy is not so simple

By Steven Hawley

Volume 1 Issue 4 of the Piracy Monitor newsletter reported several legal cases brought against pirates, in Europe, the US, Canada and in Russia. It also made note of a University of Amsterdam study that found a general down-trend in online media piracy.

With this, it’s tempting to say that “the powers that be” have arrived at a winning formula, but the real answer is not quite so simple. It has become clear that an effective fight against video piracy actually includes a range of elements, implemented as an ecosystem.

We will detail this ecosystem in our forthcoming report and in upcoming white papers. It’s useful to see this ecosystem in an end-to-end framework that begins by identifying the nature and scope of the problem. And it’s not just one problem; it’s many.

One of these problems is the sharing – including innocent sharing – of online access credentials. Or, expanded, the en-mass theft of many credentials through automated means by industrial pirates. Another is the potential for leaks in a secure video pipeline – not just within a device, but starting with the acquisition, conversion and storage of video content by a video provider. And this can happen in the cloud, which expands the range of vulnerabilities.

Beyond the origin point, content can be intercepted by man-in-the-middle attacks between the video provider and a consumer device. Or from points within the device itself. Or by intercepting a video sharing session between two users.

You get the idea. And once detected, what next? Do we punish these users? The video provider? What if the video provider is legitimate – we need to be careful to isolate the true causes. Of course a case can also be built to tacitly allow piracy to happen, as a marketing and awareness tactic. Again, care must be taken that permission has been granted by the rights-owner to do so.

And we haven’t gotten to countermeasures, which include everything from stream shut-downs to legal action – and in Russia, even sentencing pirates to forced labor!

Stay tuned – this is a rich and fascinating area. We just need to make sure that the wrong people aren’t getting rich as a result.