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.
Streaming piracy and the illicit streaming device (ISD) and application ecosystem is impacting all Asian and international businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content. It is affecting every aspect of the video ecosystem from the independent production companies, the start-ups that are never being born to technology and service providers that are a part of the industry.
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 illicit streaming devices (ISDs) and other illicit application ecosystems. 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.
Digital Piracy in the Asia Pacific Region
The threat posed by digital piracy in the Asia Pacific region has grown and evolved. With legal streaming services growing, online piracy today is a more direct competitor than ever before, in terms of technical delivery modes and business models. From the illicit supply side the technological ecosystems allow for the efficient streaming of pirated content, whilst presenting no single point of attack from a law enforcement perspective. All of these network nodes are heavily obfuscated and can be in different countries, multiplying the complexity of the enforcement challenge. In another disturbing development, in Southeast Asia we are beginning to see a consolidation of bigger players dominating the market for pirated content. As with many other profitable crimes, it was only a matter of time before criminal syndication took over.
But there are reasons for our industry to be upbeat. In Southeast Asia, we are seeing governments increasingly agree that the online world needs to be managed and that there must be effective rules and enforcement procedures to do that. Existing regulatory site-blocking regimes are becoming more streamlined and effective, such as those in Indonesia and Malaysia. Other governments are in the process of enhancing or introducing new site-blocking protocols, including Thailand and the Philippines. This year, despite the many challenges of the C-19 pandemic, has also demonstrated that effective strategies that can be put in place which disrupt and curb egregious levels of online piracy.
To address the enforcement challenges, collaboration within the content industry remains key. Working collaboratively as part of an international network, as well as within local content coalitions, is at the forefront of a successful enforcement strategy. In this regard CAP has helped create a number of Asian coalitions including the Video Coalition of Indonesia (VCI), the Vietnam Content Alliance (VCA) and the Video Coalition of the Philippines (VCOP).
Consumer awareness remains another key component and it is important that we continually make consumers aware how to identify an illicit IPTV service and piracy websites, as well as the very real malware risks they face when accessing such services. That said, the majority of consumers who regularly use piracy services already know that what they are accessing is stolen content. For example in a recent Singapore YouGov survey when asked who was most responsible for preventing online piracy, Singaporean consumers chose “the individual, for choosing not to watch pirated content”. There are a huge array of legal IPTV services, both advertising-based and subscription, that are currently available to consumers throughout SE Asia. Such video services provide premium entertainment content, are reliable and importantly are legal. The piracy alternatives fund crime groups, put consumers at risk of malware infection and are unreliable. Piracy websites and ISDs do not come with a ‘service guarantee’, no matter what the seller may claim. This message is beginning to resonate with SE Asian consumers.
We also work alongside technology platforms, payment processors, app stores and other intermediaries. Disrupting the technological ecosystem of the pirate websites, as well as the illicit commercial transactions at the point of sale, are core to disrupting the wider piracy ecosystem.