Business: Combating piracy must continue in 2021
Pascal Metral
Issue: March/April 2021

Business: Combating piracy must continue in 2021

Despite the fast pace of technological innovations to inhibit the practice of piracy, the problem still represents one of the biggest bottlenecks in the audiovisual industry, imposing losses of millions of dollars on content owners and operators. 

To get an idea of the figures generated by this illegal market, last year, in three operations with the active participation of Nagra to identify and dismantle criminal organizations in Brazil, Switzerland and Spain, a flow of more than $50 million illegal revenues was obstructed. To zoom in on that, in Brazil, just one of the 38 disconnected pirate services, had annual revenues of $18 million and overall, it’s estimated that the illegal services dismantled by Brazilian authorities reached 26 million users. 

In Switzerland, the stolen content service carried advertisements and the pirate OTT box was sold in retail stores in that country. France including a lifetime access to a library of over 85,000 pieces of content for $160. In Spain, the boldness of the illegal IPTV transmission network has attracted hundreds of resellers and, using their own brands, offered the illegal service as a franchise, serving more than two million subscribers worldwide, with access to at least 40,000 video channels and VOD content.

These seizures on one side reflect the success of the partnership between private companies — including Nagra as a technology supplier — content owners, operators, and public institutions and governments representing progress in the anti-piracy fight. On the other side, however, it also shows that the effort needs to be intensified in 2021 to protect the legitimate businesses of the media and entertainment industry and the privacy of subscriber data.

The role of the consumer in combating piracy

For the subscriber to be alert to the point of being able to avoid pitfalls that, at first glance, may look tempting, companies need to share useful information that contributes to this awareness. One of them concerns the equipment, such as the set-top box, which must bear the Anatel seal. It is also possible to consult the agency's website for consultation of the approved equipment brands. In addition to data security, the purchase of a legitimate service will not expose the consumer to the risk of electrical damage to the equipment.

At Anatel it is also possible to check which broadband operators are licensed to provide access services to channels and audiovisual content. Access through pirated equipment or pirated websites can expose the user to malware associated with illegal content. Spyware, such as devices like cameras or connected routers that capture images and subscriber information are also risks associated with illegal piracy services. There are also those who, criminally, access internet traffic from the environment where the IPTV equipment is installed or use the IP address of the device subscriber. 

Regarding the HTV box, which can be used as a vector for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, the risk is even greater. It is important that consumers and suppliers are together in the fight against piracy, given the expanded dimension of criminal practice impacting the economy and the loss of tax collection that could be used to benefit the population. Another factor to consider is that the demand for scale for licensed services may result in a decrease in subscription costs for the consumer.

Technology as a strategy of defense

The idea of international cooperation in the fight against piracy and cyber crime, by alliances of large global content and technology companies, centralizes the interests of the audiovisual industry and favors the exchange of information that can be decisive for the authorities, from countries in different regions in the world to take action against criminals. Piracy is a crime without borders, hence the need for this universal effort to combat it.

Another solution available to tackle content piracy is technology. Operators and content distributors need to be protected with the latest in the market so that they have facilitated the tracking and recognition of illegally-distributed content. To assist, Nagra has and continues to provide great contributions to business partners who want to monitor, identify and deactivate the source of content piracy, such as watermarking or traitor tracing technologies. Nagra technologies further enable the blocking of the access to pirate servers and websites. Operators who deploy technology as a protection strategy strengthen their barriers against illegal content distribution, creating obstacles that make it harder for criminals to act, and discouraging even those who use access to illicit services.

Pascal Metral is vice-president of legal affairs, head of Nagra ( anti-piracy intelligence, investigations and litigation.