Trust chief warns of digital TV piracy risks

The head of pro-copyright education body The Industry Trust for IP Awareness has warned of the risks of pirating film, TV and sports content through unauthorised apps, suggesting that parents who engage in digital TV piracy have no idea of the associated risks to their families.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Liz Bales CEO of the Industry Trust, notes that Internet-connected TV set-top boxes and sticks are a great way to enjoy digital entertainment through the home television, with many people no doubt having received such a device this Christmas. “But new research reveals a growing number of people are using this technology to pirate film, TV and sports content through unauthorised apps. It also reveals they could be getting more than they bargained for,” she says.

“Unauthorised apps installed on the boxes and sticks ‘scrape’ content from illegal file-sharing sites, cyber-lockers and streaming sites to download and stream infringing film, TV and sports content,” she notes. “In doing so, they expose users to many of the security and safety risks traditionally associated with pirate websites, but deliver these through a much more trusted and social family viewing medium – the television,” she advises.

According to Bales, the first ever detailed study of this type of piracy has just been completed and reveals one in ten of those engaging in it have been inadvertently exposed to pornographic or age-inappropriate content, while a supporting technical analysis found that one third of advertising served to viewers was of an adult nature.

“The technical analysis showed that the problem is exacerbated by a lack of parental controls, which are often not supported by the apps and add-ons used to pirate content. Of 16 of the highest-traffic apps, none of them included British Board of Film Classification age ratings or any guidance regarding suitability,” she reveals. “As a result, the research showed popular children’s films featured alongside titles with very explicit and violent content.”

For Bales, what is most concerning in the research is the tendency for families to engage in digital TV piracy, usually through their trusted family TV and, more often than not, leaving children to use the technology on their own. “In fact, more than three quarters (79 per cent) of parents who have participated in digital TV piracy report that their children are allowed to access unauthorised content unattended, with seven per cent saying they have actually installed the technology in their children’s bedrooms,” she notes.

Bales says the study reveals that the vast majority of parents who engage in digital TV piracy have no idea of the associated risks to their families. “With recommendations of this type of piracy coming largely from friends and family, people are advocating this type of piracy without realising the risks they could be passing on,” she warns.

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