The Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA) has announced the 2021 awards given to an individual or team from the public sector for a successful initiative which supports the fight against audiovisual piracy.
The winner of the 2021 award is the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) – European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, and more specifically the Enforcement and SME Service team, led by Blanca Arteche, for its campaign and efforts supporting the reinstating of IP Crime in the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
The Observatory team at the EUIPO embarked on an awareness-raising programme to win support and join efforts with the European Commission (DG HOME) and Member States (MSs) to have IP crime re-instated in EMPACT following its omission from the 2018-2021 cycle. The AAPA award for 2021 is given specifically to the Enforcement and SME Service team who also supported the awareness work undertaken by a coalition of private sector stakeholders. Had the campaign been unsuccessful IP crime would have remained in the law enforcement wilderness until 2025 at least.
“The challenge faced by the Observatory team from the EUIPO should not be understated,” asserted Sheila Cassells, Executive Vice President of AAPA. “Initially only a few MSs were willing to contemplate re-instating IP crime. The private sector coalition, of which AAPA was part, benefitted greatly from the advice and insight offered by Blanca and her team, reinforcing the value of the network which the Observatory represents. After the various stages were completed in May 2021 MSs agreed the priorities with IP Crime being included as a segment in the Fraud, Financial and Economic Crimes priority. This is a very successful outcome as it means there is money and other resources to take on operations, provide training, etc. to tackle audiovisual piracy – and countries recognise the importance of doing so. AAPA looks forward to supporting MSs and Europol in the implementation of the Operational Action Plans.”
AAPA also presented special recognition awards to Primo Dirigente Marcello La Bella and Sostituto Commissario della Polizia di Stato Davide Salvatore Centonze, Compartimento della Polizia Postale e delle Comunicazioni per la Sicilia Orientale for their work on Operation Black Out. Supported by Primo Dirigente Gabrielli Ivano and Ispettore Vito Cuscianna from the Servizio Polizia Postale e delle Comunicazioni the operation led to the closure of a major IPTV network responsible for around 80 per cent of illegal IPTV supply in Italy. Operation Black Out was carried out by 200 specialists in 11 regions following an investigation into sellers on Telegram and other social networks. The network is believed to have generated around €15 million in revenue every month.
“We are delighted to recognise the commitment and success of the Polizia Postale e delle Comunicazioni in blocking access to such a major illegal IPTV network,” declared Mark Mulready, Co-President of AAPA and Vice President Cyber Services at Irdeto. “The number of specialists and regions involved demonstrates the organisational and technical complexities involved in fighting such illicit activities which are increasingly accessible through social media networks. Activities such as Operation Black Out sends a clear message that piracy will not be tolerated.”