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2022 Unlocked: Keeping up with the video pirates

Video piracy is continually evolving in the shadows, which means the companies like us that battle it must continually evolve and become ever-faster too.

video piracyOnce upon a time, you needed extreme technical skills to pirate video content. Now, you just need access to any number of online libraries of tools, tip and hacks and have the patience to try a few different combinations. Do all that and: Voila! You are a pirate.

When we think about piracy and what may occur in the area in 2022 we have to consider two things: first the volume, second the ease with which it can be accomplished.

The fact is that digital media piracy is still a growing industry. There is more content being watched on more platforms and on more devices than ever. The demand for video is insatiable, and is closely coupled with the volume of video piracy we see as a result. One metric rises, so does the other. 

In the first nine months of 2021, there were 132 billion visits to pirate sites worldwide, up 16% on the same period in 2020. 67 billion of these visits were related to TV piracy, making it roughly 50% of all pirate site traffic.

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Alongside this, the actual business of being a pirate has become easier than ever. It has become modular. Pirates can simply chain easily located software tools and techniques together, delve into some specialist but still public message boards, and eventually they will come up with a combination that works.

The consequence of this is that when one platform is breached in any manner somewhere in the world, before you know it, that same technique is being used to create another breach in another service elsewhere. Piracy is interconnected and international, and fighting it is a constant battle that is only going to get more difficult, but also more necessary, as the year moves on.

AI gives you speed and volume

So, how are we going to fight this? AI is one way and the tools are getting more sophisticated all the time. AI allows us to monitor the huge amount of data involved in broadcasting or streaming video in realtime and quickly detect events that are anomalies, that is to say that occur outside of an expected range of behaviours. These are flagged up and then investigated to see if they are breaches.

And we can do this faster than ever, which is good as piracy has become faster too. As we have moved from piracy based on BitTorrent and peer-to-peer networks to that based on live streaming illegal content, so the importance of moving fast has grown. If you are a broadcaster whose football match is being streamed illegally, the sooner a takedown notice can be served the better.

The numbers are in constant flux, but we reckon that you have around 15 minutes to take down a stream if you want to be able to move effectively against pirates. This is why technologies such as dynamic watermarking have become so important to the modern industry; they enable speed of movement.

Pirates are fast. To fight them effectively you have to be faster.

No single solution

The good news in the battle against piracy is that we have developed some very powerful tools to do just this. Our Anti-Piracy Services have been designed to be agile, flexible, and tackle every source of video piracy whether that be Web, IPTV, STBs or Apps. We use a combination of technology monitoring, customer and local investigators feedbacks, and the expertise of a dedicated, multi-disciplinary team; all joined together to deploy the right tools for the right job at the right time. 

Technology on its own is never enough, you need experience and skilled human input as well. And you need speed and the ability to swiftly detect and swiftly remediate; acting fast enough when a breach has occurred to make a difference. You have 15 minutes to combat live streaming piracy? We know that and work within the accelerated timeframes that modern anti-piracy demands..

It is important to realise that when it comes to fighting video piracy, there is no one size fits all approach. The content targeted by the pirates, the technologies they use to try and force a breach, and the means by which they distribute links change on a regional and sometimes even country to country basis. There are also other factors at play too, such as the cultural perception of video piracy and the local laws and means by which anti-piracy legislation is enacted

This can change. The #PlayItRight campaign in The Philippines, for example, ran across YouTube and social media and helped contribute to a 53% downturn in traffic to illegal sites over a six month period. And industry bodies, including several in which we are involved, are in constant dialogue with authorities around the world on implementing more robust anti-piracy laws. 

The battle continues

We cannot talk in too much detail about our latest anti-piracy initiatives as we are in a constant arms race with the pirates. We develop a method to stop piracy, they find a way to circumvent it; they find a new way to force a breach, we find a way to plug the gap. That way we limit, sometimes dramatically, the losses that our customers incur in terms of lost revenue. 

Anyone who might be interested in our approach should read A case study in how we investigate pirate video apps which goes into some of the methodologies that were in play last year. This year? It will be something different, something new, but we are confident we have the tools, the technology, and the skilled experts with many decades of experience between them to counteract whatever the pirates throw at us. 


Pierre-Alexandre Bidard

Pierre-Alexandre Bidard is Vice President Partnerships and Security Products Management at Viaccess-Orca
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