piracy
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This article is written by Devansh Sharma, a first-year student at Law School, Banaras Hindu University. In this article, the author discusses Piracy and ways to avoid piracy. The writer also provides for Strategies and steps to follow in order to tackle losses created by Pirated contents.

Introduction

Due to technological advancements and an increase in the field of broadcast and entertainment, the threat of piracy of content has increased manifold. The producers and developers of such contents are always under a constant fear of their content being pirated. 

In recent years, the world has acknowledged many incidents of content piracy, most famous of these cases are the leak of HBO’s Juggernaut and episodes of the well-known Game of Thrones. Though there are certain ways through which the leading producers have figured out how to protect their content against piracy. It still baffles many when it comes to dealing with piracy when it is committed and the strenuous task of handling. Mitigating the losses after the commission of piracy is even more perplexing. 

So, in this article, we will look at some of the techniques that can be used in the process of dealing with losses caused by piracy.

What is Piracy and how does it affect?

Piracy in simple terms can be understood as the illegal copying of copyrighted content and releasing it in the public domain, at no or lower price than the original, in a grey or black market. These kinds of piracy activities have become so rampant that it leads to a huge loss being incurred on the part of the producer. The act of piracy is executed in many ways like video piracy, cable piracy and, CD/DVD piracy.

There are certain laws formulated to prevent piracy but their implementation and enforcement in developing countries like India do not get national-level attention due to certain other issues at hand. Today sites like pirate bay, torrentz2, Bolly4U, etc. act as great internet sources for pirated content in India and all over the globe.

So, if I ask how much money do you (the Producer) stand to lose if your feature film lands on Pirate Bay or any other such site? 

  1. None;
  2. Nearly 20% of the total revenue;
  3. Nearly 40% of the total revenue.

If you choose to go with the first option then you are likely under the false impression that piracy brings good publicity, and that is not how the internet works. In most of the piracy cases, the estimated loss is up to 20% of the total revenues. But in severe cases of piracy, it may range up to 40% or more. Movies like Udta Punjab, Tera Kya Hoga Johnny, Mohalla Assi, Paanch, have faced the fate of being pirated even before their release.

It was more cruelly ironic in the case of Mohalla Assi and Paanch, as these movies got released commercially years after they were available to download from the internet. Now, when you understand how drastic can the effect of piracy be, let us discuss some steps that could be followed to prevent piracy from happening.

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Steps to avoid Piracy

Piracy gains nourishment from the users who are looking for free and easily available content on the internet. So, in order to break the chain of transfer of pirated content, the producer must target the receivers of such information. The receivers of the content on the internet can be categorised into the following three types:

  • The Hardcore Fans: This is the audience that prefers legal and original work of the producer. They are generally admirers of the producer’s work, who at all costs will access to the content in a legitimate way. Thus, producers can be sure of such an audience’s support. 
  • The Pirate Pigeons: These individuals will never be willing to buy a legal copy of the producer’s work. These can include weird hackers considering themselves to be lofty ideals or just college students or less privileged individuals, who just do not have cash available to subscribe to a genuine source, but are real fans of your work or it could even be people from countries where there are no legal copies available. So, bothering these two extremes could be just a waste of time for the producer in the hefty hour of an instant solution. Hence, you (the producer) must focus on the middle of the spectrum i.e., the third category. 
  • The Easy Goers: This is the kind of audience that would prefer to choose between paying for your content or pirating it depending on the availability and pricing of your product. Piracy can be difficult to annihilate, but there are obviously other ways to deal with piracy. 

Awareness and Education

In the present scenario, what appears to be one of the major factors supporting piracy is the lack of consciousness among the common mass, of it being a crime. It becomes utmost necessary to break this casual attitude of people towards such kind of piracy activities. To the one working in the industry, piracy is a well-known form of crime but to those outside the industry, it becomes a casual act being performed at a regular basis by a varied group of people. 

These acts include password sharing, sharing downloaded media and content on social sites, uploading file of content on various public platforms and downloading pirated files from unauthorized domains. There were even public reports announcing that upto 42% of GenZ viewers were sharing their login credentials. These kinds of activities prevail as it takes the form of a normative crime (an act performed by ‘everyone’ and thus no longer appears illegal because the behaviour is considered normal)  in the eyes of the users subscribing to such kind of acts.

The technique of reminding the viewers that piracy is morally wrong and a crime, has proven efficient in many cases. It has helped many producers to bring down the number of pirated subscriptions. The effect of campaigns highlighting the role of organised crimes in pirate activities, exposure to malware and inappropriate material, and the danger to advertisers of negative brand association with pirate sites have made a huge effect on the masses preferring pirated content. 

Barriers to Entries

On one hand, while you want to make the legal alternative easily available to the users, on the other, you want to make it harder for the pirates. The era of unprotected content is long gone. The content owners and producers try to protect their investments and intellectual property at all cost. In order to achieve such protection, they should try striking licencing deals with operators who can demonstrate that they take such threats to revenue streams seriously in turn.

The strategies to guard against the acts of piracy have evolved with time. Where once card-based Conditional Access Systems were as sophisticated as operators could get, the move towards IP and OTT delivery has brought the necessary transition to the software-based Digital Rights Management.

Even if there is no single technology that can guarantee security, but still, the best practice can be the use of a multi-disciplinary approach, encompassing both preventive anti-piracy measures and the two criteria governing detection and enforcement.

Technology and operation

As it is clear that one cannot fight a ghost or an invisible being, it becomes extremely essential to locate the enemy in conflict. The producer needs to know what content is being pirated and where. This includes the ability to identify the content which a live pirate is streaming from the producer’s own video ecosystem. It requires technical intervention at the pre-transmission stage.

The key to success here is monitoring, whether automated (there have been some interesting developments in Artificial Intelligence monitoring of both deployed and under development video streams) or human-led. In today’s world, at least a hybrid solution is typically deployable.

Once the producer is able to detect a breach, he must proceed with swift actions necessary to deal with it. Its importance has increased in recent years as piracy has pivoted towards real-time streaming. The most lucrative being the illegal revenue streams associated with the live sport in particular ( the premium prices set for accessing sports contents is making it a prime target). In such conditions, high-level agreements with search engines and social networks consumers use to locate pirated content act as the key to rapid and real-time actions.

Legal & enforcements 

There are a variety of counter-measures that can be taken by the TV service providers to interrupt and remove pirated content. These measures range from the traditional take-down notices to increasingly sophisticated real-time messages. With the help of anti-piracy services, operators can identify consumers involved in illegal streaming of content and incentivize them in order to make them switch to legitimate sources of service. These actions can scale from soft to hard, or even harder counter measures can be taken that involve the introduction of law enforcement authorities.

As it is clear to everyone that the process of prosecution is comparatively slower and happens after the event of piracy, thus, speed is the key. Removing content from the internet as soon as possible is the best way to deter pirates and drive consumers towards legal alternatives.

Cooperation

Companies remain conscious of the competition at all levels of the broadcast chain. Thus, losses to content piracy are too great for them to not to shift their focus and concerted effort at. All the above methods, discussed in this article, start to drizzle out even if there is a single bad link in the chain. The bad link can even be the producer who is lenient with his content being pirated or doesn’t know about the extent of piracy. Therefore, it becomes essential to keep checks at each level of the industry and at all steps of the process, from production and on-set content security to transmission.

The concept of herd immunity, that is also a crucial aspect of global vaccination programs, holds importance here as well. The efficiency of the overall solution increases with a better number of organisations and companies involved in the process. So, if all of the above methods are executed systematically and efficiently by all relevant producers at once, then it can be one of the biggest deterrents to pirates.

Step to mitigate losses due to pirated content

Even after subscribing to one or multiple techniques stated above, complete restriction on piracy can not be achieved. As long as the owners are producing content and are charging for providing it, there would always be pirates looking for chances to exploit the demand and supply chain and use it to their own advantage. 

So, what should be the strategy on the part of the producer if such a case of piracy pops up? There is always a need for a quick solution or strategy in such situations. So, let us have a look at all the available tactics to tackle such problems. 

Detection of piracy

If the legal copy is the only available copy on the internet then it’s great but if there is a pirated copy available online, then you (the producer) need to fight back. Getting to identify the pirated content at the very initial point can help to a very large extent. The use of software (like 

ScreenerCopy and Synamedia) can help the producer to get early alerts, warning them of their content being leaked online or pirated, even before it lands on popular pirate sites. This gives producers the time to act and formulate strategies to protect their well-earned profits. At these hours of need, Google can be the owner’s best friend.

The owner of the content must be sure to use advanced filters to adjust the time period, cross-check titles with similar wording, and add his own name or the names of the characters of his content. Alternatively,  he can also go directly to pirate sites and search there. The owner must set up a Google Alert for his content title on major piracy sites like Pirate Bay, etc.

DMCA notice

The source has been detected the procedure of sending takedown notices must initiate at once. Takedown notices also known as the DMCA letters have a set format of framing which is easily available on the internet. The most difficult part of such a procedure is getting all of the administration in order, and then locating the distinctly elusive contact details on the shady pirated sites.

The person assigned by the producer for sending DMCA notice needs to send the notice in writing to the Web hosting company, which he can learn through a WHOIS lookup. The person needs to provide at a minimum: 

  • A physical or electronic signature (i.e., /s/NAME) of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the allegedly infringed copyright.
  • The identification of the copyrighted work that is claimed to have been infringed. 
  • The identification of the material which is claimed to be infringing the copyright and any information that is reasonably sufficient to allow the service provider to locate the material. 
  • Any information that is reasonably sufficient to allow the service provider to contact the complaining party, such information can be an address, a telephone number, and, if possible, an electronic mail address through which the complaining party can be contacted. 
  • Any statement claiming that the complaining party has good faith/belief that use of the material in the manner complained of, is not authorized by the copyright owner. 
  • A statement claiming that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, and the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the allegedly infringed. 

It may happen that the site may not act on the DMCA notice to take down the pirated content in the first go. So, the owner needs to send some repeated copies of the notice to the infringing party. As we already know, there exists nothing like “International Copyright Law” but just some treaties and agreement among organisations to deal with piracy. Hence, these legal procedures seem to fail after a certain extent. Therefore certain strategies are needed to tackle the situation efficiently.

Strategic moves to counter losses against piracy

Once you (the producer) are able to identify the content at the initial stage of piracy, then the anti-piracy strategy that the producer undertakes needs to be two-pronged:

Pushing Forward the release date

The first and foremost thing that an owner needs to ensure at such a crucial time, is that if someone is willing to pay for the owner’s content then he/she should have that option available to him/her. Thus, pushing forward the release date can create a massive difference. This may sound dramatic but it can obviously get you (the owner) good results by doing something as simple as selling your movie on VOD platforms in territories where your distribution deals are not servicing yet. As it is possible that the biggest fan of your work may be sitting idle and complete unserved.

Make the legal copy easily accessible

After the dates have been pushed forward, the second part of the strategy needs to be implemented with the utmost efficiency. The users searching for content on the internet are by nature lazy and prefer an easily accessible option (like when was the time you clicked on the second link on the google search to find your result?).

So, if someone searches the name of your content on Google, for example, movie name( producer’s content) watch online, what they find as a result of the search (link of legal content or a pirated link) matters the most. The producer needs to make sure that the first two pages of any search, made with respect to his/her content, are flooded with links to legal means of accessing producer’s content.

This can be achieved through the technique called the Search Engine Optimization technique.

Search Engine Optimization Technique

The Search Engine Optimization techniques also known as SEO help to publicize your content to avoid pirate contents to take over. The SEO technique involves the following steps:

Creating a pitch list of 10–20 relevant industry publications and/or influencers and reaching them about a feature

Try to figure out around 10 to 20 relevant industry publications or influencers and ask them to review your content. This can prove to be a good as these influencers and publications have a wide social following and are well-known connoisseurs of their particular fields, hence people tend to pay greater heed to their views.  Provide each of the contacts of your pitch list of publications and influencers with snippets of copy, videos and graphics which you feel will interest the viewers who follow them on social media. Remember to use a secure content distribution platform to give potential reviewers the exclusive opportunity to view and review (imperceptibly watermarked and blockchain-protected) copies of your content.

Writing SEO’d blog posts and posting attractive content to social media, on the regular

Not only the publications or the influencers but you need to also figure out the members of your crew who are quite famous on social media. Ask them to start posting SEO’d blogs and other spicy and interesting stories regarding your content on social media on a regular basis. 

The key is consistent posting. Always remember that the ultimate goal of the SEO effort is to serve the need of whoever might be searching for your content online, here the keyword research comes in handy. The producer must understand the essential keywords that are used in searches related to his content and must try incorporating them in the SEO’d posts.

One of the main things to remember is that search engine ranking factors are complex and mysterious beasts. Therefore, whoever is given the ownership of creating the promotional content that the producer wants to rank on Google must try to keep the following complex factors in mind:

  • Domain-Level Factors
  • Page-Level Factors
  • Site-Level Factors
  • Backlink Factors
  • User Interactions
  • Special Google Algorithm Rules
  • Brand Signals 
  • On- and Off-Site Webspam Factors

Get proactive to create a content system built on word of mouth referrals

This can be done in the following ways:

  • Asking the publications and the influencers to publicize your content by posting the reviews of your content along with small trailers and links of posted articles which helps to create a good fan base for your content.  
  • If the content is available on a streaming network like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or any other Digital Distribution Platforms, then try contacting their content team and persuade them into writing blog posts and social media punts to promote your content. 
  • On top of pushing your content to any and all existing social channels for your work, post anything you produce to your own /your company/brand’s Google+ profile.

Removing the Incentive

Pricing is the first and the biggest problem when it comes to piracy, and you can be sure that you cannot beat the free pirated content. So, what else can be done? One of the most effective ways of dealing with piracy is by removing the incentive for consumers to look for pirated content.

Removing the incentive basically refers to providing good quality content and good user experience to the users at an incentivized price. Disney applied the same tactics by providing its SVOD service at a minimized rate of 6.99 U.S. Dollars, as compared to Netflix’s 12.99 U.S. Dollars, to the viewers in order to minimize its losses from piracy.

In this technique, the price is not the only differentiator. Another important instrument that plays a key role is user experience. Viewers are generally attracted to sympathetic interfaces that contain sophisticated notification systems and alerts such as personal recommendations. The viewers crave for excellent video quality with no buffering and/or latency.

The more the producer/owner is able to provide at a realistic cost, the less the people will be driven towards the pirate claws. Using this technique, the producer/owner may not be able to stop everyone from watching pirated content but he/she can surely remove a considerable number of the casual illegal content consumers.

Disruption of Streaming 

Even after complying with the above procedure there will always be users who would subscribe to the pirated content. But it’s not a point to be disheartened, as there are still ways to lower the number of these users by the use of Disruption Techniques. This technique basically focuses on causing disruption by the ways of pop up messages and warning alerts.

These kinds of disruptions result in lowering the confidence of the viewers of pirated content. Imagine a situation where you stream a pirated video or a game and the video/ game gets disrupted at frequent intervals causing inconvenience in the experience of the viewer. It certainly becomes annoying to viewers and ultimately makes the viewers lose confidence in the pirated contents. This technique helps the owner reduce the number of illegal viewers to a greater extent.

Contact anti-piracy authorities

Once all the above measures are taken, the only step left to proceed with is contacting the Anti-Piracy Authorities regarding the activity of piracy. Some of the anti-piracy authority to be contacted in such (in Indian context) cases are:

  • International Intellectual Property Alliance 

  • Motion Pictures Association

  • Indian Music Industry

  • Business Software Alliance

  • Industry Enforcers

Conclusion

We have discussed nearly every possible way to avoid and deal with losses due to piracy. The situation of pirated content streaming on the internet can be extremely frustrating and panicking for the producer/owner. But at this time, it is important to notice that panic on the owner’s side could create a bigger mess and complicate the situation.

So, it is advisable, to whoever dealing with such pirated activities, to keep calm and focus their attention towards executing the above process in an efficient way as the above tactics need a lot of delicate handling and any kind of complexity or mistake can lead to even greater losses to the owner. 

Try handling your team and your allies, working on this anti-piracy move along with you, with utmost confidence and attentiveness. The method of cooperation stated above is also applicable in case of anti-piracy dealing, the better the bond in cooperation the better it works. So, as an owner, you must strive to root out every possibility of a bad link in the chain of this anti-piracy move, while your team works to deter the pirates.


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