Tag Archives: streaming services

BREIN Seeks to Define Streaming Piracy Crime in EU Court

Although it seems obvious to those of us with any sense of respect for intellectual property, the question as to whether viewing pirated content from a streaming site is illegal remains a gray area around the world.

That’s certainly true in the European Union (EU), where the region’s Court of Justice could soon rule on the legality of streaming unlicensed video content.

The court’s consideration arises thanks to the hard work of BREIN, a Dutch anti-piracy organization with a strong history of standing up for creative rights. Earlier this year they issued a dozen injunctions against some 128 sites engaged in copyright infringement and successfully took down a number of them.

Now, on the back of a case in the Dutch court system that was also brought to trial by BREIN, the very definition of piracy in the region could be redefined.

The issue arises because Europe has a gray area in its definition of copyright infringement, which holds that any unlicensed content held on a temporary basis does not breach intellectual property rights. In a world of digital downloads, which are clearly intended to remain on a hard drive for some time, this gap was not so important. As bandwidth increases around the world and streaming becomes the primary way we consume videos and music online, however, it quickly becomes a crucial definition to clear up.

The case is intriguing not just because it highlights a question that seems like simple common sense to most creators (yes, if someone takes my registered work without compensating me, it violates my rights). It’s also interesting as it stems from a legal challenge BREIN raised against not a piracy site or app, but manufacturers of hardware. The equipment in question comes pre-loaded with software that makes it easy to access unlicensed content with just a few clicks. Worse yet, it actively promotes this fact in order to sell more units.

Not unlike the successful action against VPN providers in New Zealand earlier this year, it appears that BREIN has a sound basis for its complaint against the defendants.  

In both cases, the ability to access copyrighted content for free is used as a key selling point for the hardware. This goes beyond simply being an intermediary that facilitates copyright infringement which is bad enough, and takes us into the realm of actively promoting and profiting from piracy. It is arguably the lowest form of content theft because, as seen in the case of Megaupload and its owners, led by Kim Dotcom, those behind the piracy promotion typically make a lot of money without ever compensating the creative talent that fuels their business model.

Not content to just address key anti-piracy issues with the EU’s highest legal authority, BREIN is also considering legal action against individual content thieves using Popcorn Time, piracy’s latest poster child platform. While going after the larger intermediaries who make piracy possible is typically a more effective approach, the threat posed by Popcorn Time could be such that individual law suits are explored to deter would-be pirates. A spokesperson for BREIN said as much when the possibility was raised, and this type of action is not without precedent in other parts of Europe.

Given the proliferation of affordable streaming services, it might seem unbelievable that we still face the problem of growing piracy in 2015. Unfortunately, there are still those who believe that simply getting online entitles them to take anything they want without paying for it. For that reason, the fight against piracy has to continue at all levels, and without organizations like BREIN, it would be a lot harder to steer consumers towards legal streaming channels.

Whether Carrot or Stick, Copia Is Using It to Flog a Dead Horse

It’s always entertaining to watch someone attempt to turn an old idea into a revolutionary one, so imagine our delight – or dismay, if anyone takes it seriously – to read a Techdirt article doing just that. Better yet, doing so under the guise of a carefully researched “report!”

If you don’t have the heart to wade through yet more head-in-the-sand, piracy apologist schtick, here’s the hypothesis: where legal streaming services launch, piracy drops.

 

Mind = Blown, right?

This unremarkable conclusion is communicated in a thoroughly clichéd way, within a report entitled “The Carrot or The Stick: Innovation vs. Anti-Piracy Enforcement.” The document is commissioned by The Copia Institute, a Google-backed think tank which appears to receive its thoughts from the tech lobby, pretty them up in Powerpoint with some clip art, before labeling them “innovative” and releasing them into the wild.

Less an innovative think tank, more recycled arguments from a stagnant thought pool.

To take this case directly, though, let’s neuter one false premise from the outset; enforcing intellectual property law and encouraging innovation are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the former supports the latter by giving inventors and artists some degree of confidence that they will be able to make a living from their groundbreaking ideas, without someone taking them without permission.

Nor does the fact that innovation makes exciting and legal new services available for our entertainment needs mean that there’s no place for anti-piracy initiatives. There will always be those who seek to profit from content that isn’t theirs to sell, and there will always be a niche of technologically-able users who have no qualms about circumventing legal safeguards to get take what they want for nothing. As we see in the cases of Kim Dotcom/Megaupload and The Pirate Bay’s founders, anti-piracy protection is key to bringing down the illegal side of the content equation. This actually aids legal services, who understand the need to compensate creators,  because they aren’t subject to unfair competition from those who feel no need to respect intellectual property law.

From there, the entire argument falls apart, because each area must be dissected on its own merits, with little or no correlation to the other. Yes, there must be a drive to innovate and launch new entertainment services. Yes, there should be legislation in place to prevent unauthorized services vying with those that legally source their content. But the two can live side-by-side, even symbiotically, without detracting from the other. Disagree with the effectiveness of specific anti-piracy programs, by all means, but don’t try to tell us that the existence of legal services means that all efforts to curb the illegal ones should be killed.

The idea that the entertainment industry is opposed to innovation and fails to launch services that consumers want is no longer just a tired argument, it’s on the side of the road, wheezing and, we have to hope, just about ready to quit the race.

Most mainstream consumers have not yet arrived at the streaming station, but everyone from cable companies to online-only startups is now introducing. From the MPAA itself, which so often bears the brunt of criticism , the Where to Watch initiative helps to guide viewers to the content . Such a sound idea that companies like Apple and Amazon, often held up as the height of tech innovation, are just now beginning to integrate Universal Search options into their streaming solutions!

The simple fact is that the entertainment industry is working hard every day to update its production and distribution to reach consumers when and where they want to watch. Most are willing to compensate them for this effort, be it in the form of subscription fees, one-time charges, or simply watching a few ads during their content.

There’s a section of the online environment, however, that tasted piracy early on and now refuses to give up the notion that they are entitled to take any content they want, without ever having to pay anything. As much as piracy apologists like Techdirt, appropriately named, try to sling mud on the creative industry for being dinosaurs and deliberately holding back innovation, real world products simply don’t let that stick.

Cheapskate (You Ain't Gettin' Nada)

An honest approach to piracy apologism? — Cheapskate (You Ain’t Gettin’ Nada) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rather than conduct “research” into the glaringly obvious to support their own ends, it would be refreshingly honest to hear something else we already know from this crowd: “we’re cheap and we don’t to pay people to create things that entertain us.”

It won’t make the attitude any more easy to stomach, but at least the arguments will finally come from a place that can be logically, if not legally justified.

 

 

Australia Sees a Shift Towards Legal Streaming Services

Netflix has only been around in Australia for six months but it is already showing signs of steering online viewers back to licensed content. Along with home-grown peers like Presto and Stan, the company that launched down under back in March has helped to usher in a tangible drop in piracy, according to consumer group Choice.

Reliefmap of Australia

Reliefmap of Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The organization focused on two main areas: Australians who identify as “regular pirates” and those who have engaged in at least one unlicensed content act – downloading or streaming – in the past year.

In Choice’s follow up to its 2014 study those numbers dropped by three and six percent respectively, showing minor but not insignificant shifts against acts of piracy, given the short time frame in question.

Extending out to several years, if these trends continue then the signs for legal streaming – and the compensation such services bring for rightsholders – are promising. 

At this early stage, there is a lot of room for legal streaming services to expand into the public consciousness. Every subscription to a legitimate service means a consumer contributing to the creative economy and less likely to take from that same pot by accessing content from unlicensed sources.

The arrival of international services like Netflix should also spur competition among native platforms, encouraging spending on exclusive content and original titles that resonate with Australian audiences.

streaming-services-logos-usa

We need look only to the North American ecosystem to see the benefits of widespread legal streaming success. It’s not just Netflix with Emmy Awards for House of Cards and critical acclaim for new series like Narcos (both of which Australians can now access in full, as an aside). Whether the investment in new productions by Hulu, the launch of a dedicated streaming service by HBO, or the Amazon investment in Top Gear presenters that CEO Jeff Bezos himself has described as “very, very, very expensive,” it is clear that not only does legal streaming support creative production, it actually drives that creativity to the next level as competing services try to outdo each other to attract more subscribers.

As we covered in our recent spotlight on Scandinavia, no single anti-piracy tactic should stand alone if we expect to see success. Each must be supplemented by a strong national stance against piracy sites, and education for the public as to how they can avoid unlicensed content and support creativity through legal channels. The final leg of that stool involves competitive and attractive streaming services, however, and the increased availability of those services in Australia seems to support that as an important element to curb piracy, even at this early stage.