Members of AAPA, the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance, have briefed delegates at a Eurojust-Europol-OHIM seminar on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights on the Internet of the additional threats posed by more ubiquitous access to higher broadband speeds throughout the world and the growing problem of illegal streaming of pay audiovisual media content which damages rights holders and pay-TV companies.
The latest in a series of conferences organised by the EU Observatory on IP Infringements (managed by OHIM) and Europol, and involving Eurojust for the first time, the event in Alicante brought together over 100 delegates from law enforcement agencies, including the police, prosecutors and customs bodies, as well as private sector stakeholders to discuss the challenges created by the increasing use of the Internet for counterfeiting and piracy. The objective of the conference was to increase the awareness and understanding of public sector enforcement agents of Internet piracy and to equip them with the knowledge and skills required to take effective enforcement action.
Mark Mulready, Security Director (Intelligence) at Irdeto, explained that illegal streaming has overtaken card-sharing as the most prevalent form of audiovisual piracy. This is being driven not only by improved global broadband penetration and speeds, but also improvements in streaming technologies and the production of low cost OTT STBs, notably in China.
According to AAPA, extensive research shows that over 90 per cent of illicit STBs are manufactured in Shenzhen, China, but efforts to engage the Chinese authorities in enforcement action are hindered by apparent deficiencies in Chinese law. In many cases the boxes are pre-loaded with the software necessary to gain unauthorised access to pay audiovisual content, including hundreds of live sport, movie and thematic channels, and the content may be bundled with the purchase of the STB. The boxes are used to build further illegal streaming infrastructures throughout the world, including in Europe, where Irdeto’s investigations have shown that Spain is now an important hub for the sale and distribution of pirate OTT streaming content and services.
Noting that there are intrinsic similarities in card-sharing and illegal streaming – both being based on the use of the Internet for criminal purposes and generally involving multiple geographical territories, Andreas Rudloff, Vice President Platform Services, at Sky Deutschland described why swift action is required in any investigation and enforcement activity.
He highlighted a crucial element in any investigation as obtaining live forensic evidence and the steps needed to obtain this. ‘Follow the data’ is an essential parallel activity to the ‘Follow the money’ approach in a cybercrime world and specialised skills deployed in tackling cybercrime are required. Recognising that various elements of card-sharing or streaming infrastructure can be located in different jurisdictions harmonised implementation of laws and especially swift co-operation between enforcement agencies, and with the private sector, are essential to underpin the necessary cross-border enforcement action.
According to Sheila Cassells, Executive Director, AAPA, training enforcement agents how to tackle Internet piracy was an essential ingredient in improving the success rate of enforcement action. “This is the second know-session organised by OHIM and its partners in which AAPA has taken part and we welcome the opportunity to share our members’ extensive knowledge and expertise with the public sector and other private sector stakeholders. AAPA will continue to develop its support for training through these and other initiatives. Responding to the problems posed by the supply of illicit STBs made in China, we are engaged in a series of activities aimed at enforcement action and amending the law in China,” she advised.