This is a guest post by Glenn Hower a research analyst with Parks Associates.
Video access has evolved from theaters and broadcast television to TV over managed networks, physical media, digital media, and online video over unmanaged networks. This broad change has resulted in unique challenges for content owners, distributors, and other video-related stakeholders in terms of protecting their intellectual property.
Worldwide theft of intellectual property from the United States was estimated to cost the economy $320 billion in 2014 according to the National Bureau of Asian Research, roughly the same amount as total U.S. exports to Asia. While these figures go beyond video piracy to include patent and trademark infringement as well as software piracy, the potential loss to the economy is unmistakable. Advances in several technologies contribute to the increase in video content piracy around the world.
Broadband and Network Infrastructure
Substantial broadband capacity opens the opportunity for increased consumption, availability, and quality of streaming video, both legitimate and illegitimate. According to network technology company Sandvine, streaming video applications accounted for the highest amount of downstream traffic to consumers on fixed-access networks in all geographic areas except Africa during September 2014. Enablers of digital-video piracy include increased broadband capacity, increased penetration, and a consumer environment favorable to streaming video.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
Content license agreements restrict distribution of content to particular geographic markets, allowing content producers to sell distribution rights for each region. As part of these agreements, distributors must check the IP address of devices that request video and only deliver content to those users that have valid, location-correct IP addresses. VPNs circumvent geographic licensing restrictions by masking the user’s IP address as being in a different location. Consumers use VPNs to access content that is not available in their current location.
The use of VPNs and proxies, and the treatment of their users as pirates, is controversial. Many VPN users are paying customers of a service. Thus, they feel entitled to access and watch video from the service. However, geographic restrictions are in place to protect local content rights holders. A service provider may not have the rights to exhibit content in the user’s territory, meaning, even if the user is paying for the service, the legitimate contractual distributor is losing out on compensation.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File Sharing
P2P file sharing experienced a zenith in the late 1990s and early 2000s as several controversial platforms for sharing small, easy to download mp3 files of music tracks became common on many computers. With increased availability of high-speed broadband service into the 2010s, P2P protocols and clients evolved from sharing small compressed music files to sharing large, data-intensive video files. Protocols like BitTorrent allow users to download segments of a file from multiple sources, reducing server and network load from any single location.
Live Streaming Applications
Streaming platforms like Justin.TV have served as a haven for redistribution of live video streams, particularly for geographically restricted sports. Justin.TV ceased operations in 2014 following its acquisition by Twitch Interactive, and applications Meerkat and Periscope have filled the live streaming space, allowing users to transmit live video from their mobile devices’ cameras. The season five premiere of Game of Thrones was problematic for Periscope parent company Twitter when users began live streaming the episode from their TV screens to followers through Periscope. Periscope again caused problems when its users live-streamed the highly anticipated Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao boxing match, which was only available on pay-per-view for $100.
Mobile app-based live streaming illustrates a critical problem the industry faces when addressing piracy protection and copyright enforcement. App-based live streaming through a mobile device camera requires no additional video equipment, and the live stream can be automatically delivered to the streamer’s Twitter followers. The retroactive approach of issuing take down notices does not translate to the mobile app-based model. The damage is often done and the live-stream is over by the time enforcement of take down notices is possible. The industry as a whole requires a more robust approach to copyright enforcement than has ever been necessary in the past.
There are many contributors to the ability to pirate content and technology will continue to be one that is evolving and forcing the industry to think of new ways to address piracy protection and copyright enforcement.
About Glenn Hower:
Glenn Hower currently studies entertainment content and delivery services. Glenn is experienced in entertainment content production and distribution systems with a particular emphasis on radio, television, and film content.
Glenn earned his BA in music with a focus on the music business and industry from the University of Texas at Austin. He earned his MS and MBA from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas.
Industry Expertise: TV & Video Content Production, Content Licensing & Distribution, Television Services, Broadband Services, OTT Services, Digital Music