The Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) is a firm supporter of intellectual property rights, and for good reason – the video and pay TV industry in Asia loses more than a billion US dollars annually to unauthorised connections of various types to our member companies’ networks.
AVIA monitors developments in the region and maintains a twin dialogue with governments and with industry. We believe that anti-piracy efforts depend crucially on three elements:
- Technology: to provide strong safeguards against unauthorised access.
- Law: to provide updated, meaningful penalties to deter infringement of copyright and of broadcasting control laws.
- Enforcement: to ensure that laws are carried out and that a vicious circle of piracy does not undermine the industry’s contribution to Asian development.
Coalition Against Piracy
The Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), launched in October 2017, adds full-time anti-piracy enforcement activities to the policy, information and IP advocacy activities that AVIA predecessor, CASBAA, had successfully been undertaking for many years.
The single biggest challenge to the content industry continues to be piracy, and as more of the industry turns to delivering content over the internet, digital piracy is a particularly big problem and is impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content. That is why content producers, distributors and content platforms are coming together and joining AVIA’s Coalition Against Piracy to combat this threat to their industry.
PIRACY IS THEFT
To clarify the terminology – piracy is theft. There is no difference between walking into a shop and stealing a chocolate bar and streaming a stolen video service in your home. The only difference today is that for the stolen video, there is no shopkeeper, no security camera and the perpetrators very often mistakenly view it as a victimless crime. Our goal is to move to a world where we eradicate the unfettered supply of stolen content.
As an industry we believe very strongly in innovation and we believe in an open internet. But we believe in the positive power of the internet to be responsible and ethical. The internet is not and cannot be a free for all. We act when there are sites that promote the most pernicious content – child pornography, terrorism, things that endanger national security. We need to move to a world where we also act when people’s property is being stolen. Not to do so harms the entire ecosystem, and it ultimately harms the consumers. This problem will be solved.
Unfortunately, content theft in one shape or form has been with us for years and evolves as technology evolves. VHS copies gave way to VCDs which gave way to DVDs and today we live in a world where we have done away with the physical product altogether. It is often true that laws and statutes lag behind technology, but there is a huge amount that can be done whilst the updating of IP and copyright laws is being debated.
The focus of CAP is to combat infringing streaming websites and illicit streaming devices (ISDs) and apps which facilitate massive piracy of movies, sports, TV series and other creative video content. The ISD and app ecosystem is fast becoming the ‘perfect storm’, impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content. The ISDs technological ecosystems allow for the efficient streaming of hundreds of unauthorised live TV channels and video-on-demand, whilst presenting no obvious single point of attack from a law enforcement perspective.
Such content theft is organised crime, pure and simple, with crime syndicates making substantial illicit profit from piracy streaming websites and the provision of illegally re-transmitted TV channels via ISDs. Many syndicates and individuals associated with the piracy ecosystem are involved in other criminal endeavours and there is a likelihood that part of the illegal proceeds are used to finance other criminal activities.
Such financial damage that content theft does to the creative industries is without dispute. However, the damage done to consumers themselves, because of the nexus between content piracy and malware, is only beginning to be recognised. In late 2018, the European Union Intellectual Property Office released a report on malware found on suspected piracy websites and concluded that such websites “commonly distribute various kinds of malware luring users into downloading and launching such files”. The research, which worked closely with the European Cybercrime Centre at Europol, concluded that “the threat landscape for malware distributed via copyright-infringing websites is more sophisticated than it might appear at first glance”.
Cancelling legitimate subscription services and paying less for access to pirated content is fraught with risks. The more mainstream the piracy ecosystem becomes the greater the risks of malware proliferation. Unfortunately the appetite for ‘free’ or paying cheap subscriptions for stolen content, blinkers some consumers from the real risks of malicious malware infection including particularly pernicious malware such as spyware and ransomware.
CAP works with its members and governments to help create and promote consumer awareness campaigns which educates the video-consuming public that may patronize piracy websites without knowing the harm they can cause through the proliferation of malware.
Mitigating the piracy threat requires international cooperation and CAP provides added support for the content and distribution companies in the world-wide fight against piracy.
CAP has worked collaboratively with similar initiatives and associations underway in other parts of the world, including the newly-formed Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the Audio-Visual Anti-piracy Alliance UK (AAPA) and the IPTV Task Force.
For industry initiatives and actions to be successful, the cooperation of technology platforms and other intermediaries is essential. Working alongside e-platforms and social media sites where ISDs are commonly traded, as well as disrupting illicit commercial transactions, are key components of any anti-piracy strategy. As such, CAP has developed a productive working relationship with the most popular e-platforms and financial processors in SE Asia and has in place a successful ‘rolling’ intermediary strategy aimed at reducing the online trade of ISDs through both proactive and reactive measures.