OTT platforms wake up to the menace of piracy

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The concept of media piracy is nothing new – from the time of floppy discs and cassettes, the unauthorised duplication and sale of music, movies and other IP has been rampant and near-impossible to curb. With the rise of the World Wide Web, digital media piracy has only become easier to partake and facilitate. However, media giants have begun to slowly but surely hit back in recent times.

The OTT industry is no stranger to piracy – in fact, the industry is expected to lose over $50 billion worldwide because of digital media theft over the next year. However, as service providers take steps to protect their content with each passing day, the fight against piracy is progressing, with support from third parties such as the Stop Online Piracy Act, the Global IP Center and the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

In June 2020, ACE enabled the shutdown and seizure of domains owned by ‘Area 51’, a highly popular IPTV streaming service that infringed upon content from platforms such as Netflix and Prime Video, among others. As a part of the closure, the proprietors of ‘Area 51’ were to desist from continuing their operations entirely. However, ‘Area 51’ played the role of the predecessor to newer IPTV services such as ‘Singularity Media’ and ‘Digital Unicorn Media’.

Now, a large group of OTT service providers have taken collective legal action by means of a massive copyright infringement lawsuit against the man behind these services: Jason Tusa. Tusa, and his latest creation ‘Altered Carbon’, face significant consequences for violation of IP rights, direct copyright infringement, intentional copyright infringement, breach of contract, as well as other charges. He is also liable for damages and financial payments to the tune of $15 million, as well as possible imprisonment and fines.

The case against Tusa is just the latest in a series of legal retaliatory measures taken by media giants against piracy platforms. In 2018, the streaming service ‘Set TV’ was penalised in a multimillion dollar case for copyright infringement, and so was ‘Crystal Clear Media’ in 2020. In 2020, one of the largest online piracy groups in the world, Sparks Group, was dismantled by Eurojust and Europol. ACE itself has played a huge role, having shut down over 150 platforms that engaged in piracy since its creation in 2017. The tide has been turning over the past few years, and this trend is expected to ramp up in the near future, as more and more countries introduce stricter and tighter anti-piracy laws.

Losses to the tune of $15 million from the Jason Tusa case is only a tip of the proverbial iceberg; such is the estimated loss suffered by the OTT industry due to piracy. However, in the broader context, this does serve as a clear win, and a valuable precedent for future action against other entities. While instances of piracy have also risen along with the growth of the segment, the response is also slowly catching up. And OTT giants will not hesitate at retaliating against theft of their content.