Content Protection Provider Vobile Joins BASE and DEGI

Content protection provider Vobile has become the newest hybrid member of the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE) and DEGI: The Digital Entertainment Group International.

The company joins more than 80 BASE and DEGI community members and partners.

Vobile is the global leader in digital content protection and transaction services, servicing the world’s largest platforms, film studios, TV networks, sports leagues, music labels, and other content owners. The company provides SaaS solutions for copyright protection and content monetization, powered by AI technologies.

“We are thrilled to announce that Vobile has joined BASE and DEGI as a member,” Manni Nagi, head of Europe at Vobile, said in a statement. “For more than 15 years, Vobile has been the trusted partner to leading entertainment companies across North America and Asia. We now look forward to offering world-class products and solutions to European content owners and sports leagues. Also, as thought leaders in the entertainment industry, we are excited to partner with BASE/DEGI and their members to share our knowledge and insights in the ever-changing landscape.”

BASE and DEGI link creators, distributors, digital service providers, and audiences on both local and global levels, prioritizing understanding audience behavior and industry progress, shaping how the industry addresses critical issues. Through its dedicated unit within the Industry Trust for Intellectual Property, BASE remains committed to capturing and disseminating insights on piracy behaviors, according to the group. This effort informs sector strategies, highlighting infringement’s broader threats and consequences while educating consumers about the risks associated with IP violations.

“In 2024, a convergence of factors — such as organized piracy, tech-driven ease of infringement, regulatory loopholes, and societal acceptance — poses a significant threat to video copyright,” Liz Bales, chief executive at BASE, said in a statement. “Combatting piracy requires a collective effort, requiring a comprehensive solution involving all facets of the industry. Vobile’s pioneering work in rights management has set a benchmark for safeguarding and advocating for copyright worldwide. Their collaboration fortifies our shared approach outlined in the 2022 ‘Piracy: A Problem Shared’ report, and I’m delighted to welcome them to our ever-growing membership.”

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BASE and DEGI membership provide exclusive benefits, including access to the upcoming DEG Roadshow (with events taking place in Paris, Stockholm, Berlin and London April 23-May 2) and discounted ticket rates for the BASE Awards 2024.

BB Media: Latin American Piracy Penetration Highest in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru

As of June 2023, the Latin American territories with the highest penetration of piracy consumption were Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, with 55%, 48%, and 47%, respectively, according to a report from BB Media media analyst Jimena Municoy. That surpassed the 40% Panregional level (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay).

In the analyzed period, there was growth in the consumption of audiovisual content through illegal means in all countries of the region, she reported.

Jimena Municoy

This evolution could be mainly explained by two factors, she wrote. The first one is the increased access to content through the internet. The phenomenon of digital convergence facilitates both signal and content theft, as well as their illegal consumption. It also enables the existence of intermediary operators who benefit from the illegal sale of services through various means, such as IPTV boxes with m3u lists, or the sale of access through the “cloning” of real users to legal video platforms. The second cause is the rising cost of video platforms and cable TV. In the case of Pay TV, users also mentioned the possibility of accessing the same content on the internet for free. However, contrary to expectations, the penetration of Pay TV in households with piracy is significant in most countries, suggesting the coexistence of both consumption patterns.

Piracy is prevalent in two audiovisual markets: recently released films and sports events, she wrote. In fact, the most remembered movies by users in the region reflected a significant percentage of overlap with the most demanded piracy titles from the same period. Among the top 15 titles were Fast X, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, My Fault, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and even Extraction II, original content from Netflix. Indeed, piracy affects both theater-released films and platform content. The matching titles indicate peaks in pirate downloads or views.

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Regarding sports events, piracy significantly impacts the broadcasts of national team matches and top-tier football leagues, causing millions of dollars in losses, she wrote. For example, it is estimated that during the third and fourth rounds of the CONMEBOL World Cup 2026 qualifiers, the matches involving Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela resulted in a loss of more than $60 million USD.

Streamers, Hollywood Studios Win $30 Million in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

A coalition of Hollywood studios and subscription streaming video platforms has been awarded $30 million in collective damages by a federal judge following the guilty verdict of a Texas man operating two online platforms that sold illegal access to pirated movies and TV shows.

The studios, Netflix, Prime Video and Apple TV+, among others, in December 2021 filed a lawsuit against Dwayne Anthony Johnson (no relation to the actor), alleging he illegally operated streaming platforms AllAccessTV and Quality Restreams, affording subscribers unlawful access to movie franchises such as “The Godfather,” “Harry Potter,” “Jurassic Park” and “The Office,” among other content.

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Subscribers paid Frisco, Texas-based Johnson monthly fees ranging from $15 to $25 for access, with the defendant generating upwards of $3 million annually in illegal revenue, according to the complaint.

In February 2022, Judge André Birotte from U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered the sites shut down.

“Defendant Dwayne Anthony Johnson, and all persons who are allegedly acting in active concert or participation with defendant are hereby preliminary restrained and enjoined,” Birotte wrote in his action.

DOJ: Leader of Illegal Copyright Infringement Scheme Sentenced to 5½ Years Imprisonment

The Department of Justice March 9 announced a 66-month prison sentence for YouTuber Bill Omar Carrasquillo, a.k.a. “Omi in a Hellcat,” for crimes arising from a wide-ranging copyright infringement scheme that involved piracy of cable TV, access device fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of copyright infringement.

In addition to prison time, 36-year-old Carrasquillo, who reportedly had more than 800,000 social media followers, was ordered to serve five years of probation upon release, in addition to forfeiting more than $30 million in assets and paying more than $15 million in restitution to victim cable operators and the IRS.

According to the indictment, from March 2016 until November 2019, Carrasquillo along with his co-defendants operated a large-scale internet protocol television (IPTV) piracy scheme in which they fraudulently obtained cable television accounts and then resold copyrighted content to thousands of their own subscribers, who could then stream or playback content.

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The defendants also made fraudulent misrepresentations to banks and merchant processors in an effort to obtain merchant processing accounts. Carrasquillo converted a large portion of his illegal profits into homes and dozens of vehicles, including high-end sports cars. When agents attempted to seize those items pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, Carrasquillo made false statements about and attempted to hide some of those vehicles, including a Freightliner recreational vehicle and a McLaren sports vehicle.

Carrasquillo was convicted of one count of conspiracy; one count of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; one count of reproduction of a protected work; three counts of public performance of a protected work; one count of access device fraud; one count of wire fraud; one count of making false statements to a bank; one count of money laundering; one count of making false statements to law enforcement officers; and one count of tax evasion.

“Income gained from the infringement of copyrights is taken seriously, and the federal government will continue its commitment to protecting copyright holders and content creators,” U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero said in a statement. “Today’s sentencing reflect[s] the severity of his actions.”

Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, said the sentence should send a message that willfully stealing another party’s intellectual property is a serious crime.

“Making money off of someone else’s copyrighted work is theft, plain and simple,” Maguire said.

Study: Piracy Software Not Detrimental to SVOD Platforms, ISPs

The use of piracy software doesn’t negatively impact subscription streaming video services and/or multiservice pay-TV operators (MSOs) selling high-speed internet access, according to a new academic report from researchers at the University of North Carolina and University of Delaware.

The 37-page study, “The Impact of Video Piracy on Content Producers and Distributors,” found that consumer adoption of third-party software technology allowing access to licensed and unlicensed content did not negatively impact subscription VOD platforms or pay-TV operators.

The report focused on the impact the controversial free open-sourced Kodi software (and set-top box) had on user access to video content. The results contend that numerous SVOD services such as Netflix appeared to have benefited from Kodi adoption despite being party to litigation against the software alleging piracy damages.

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In 2017, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and all the major studios (Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox Studios, Columbia Pictures and Paramount Pictures, and Disney, among others, sued the parent of Kodi alleging content copyright infringement. The platform spawned a host of third-party add-on apps, many of which have also run afoul of content holders.

Hollywood and Kodi reportedly reached a settlement in 2019.

Meanwhile, researchers found that Kodi users spent more money on high-speed internet, or broadband, accessing streaming video. This would correspond to the ongoing market shift toward increases in broadband subscribers and the decrease in pay-TV subs.

“This suggests that legal consumption of digital content over the internet actually increased, even if it was accompanied by an increase in piracy,” read the report.

Researchers also found that consumption of digital content through TV services offered by MSOs was negatively impacted as Kodi adopters were more likely to cut the pay-TV cord.

At the same time, the report found that MSOs with low TV margins relative to internet margins benefited from Kodi through increased demand for internet services, while larger MSOs with higher TV margins, and content producers that rely on the pay-TV operators for distribution, were harmed by reduced demand for TV content.

“As new technologies facilitating illegal access to digital goods emerge, similar difficulties will continue with regard to detection and quantification of damages,” read the report. “MSOs can play an important role in both aspects, and future research can help guide the evolution of policy while balancing consumer privacy concerns.”

Average Price of Hacked Streaming Account on Dark Web About $12

The average price of a hacked streaming account on the dark web is around $12, according to a study by NordVPN.

The average prices for the most popular streaming platforms are Netflix at $9.68, Amazon Prime at $14.78, Disney+ at $16.56, HBO at $3.52 and Hulu at $10.21.

“The technique criminals often use for hacking streaming accounts is called credential stuffing,” Daniel Markuson, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, said in a statement. “Credential stuffing includes exploiting emails and passwords that were leaked in big data breaches. Once criminals get them,  they try the same credentials for other accounts a person owns. Because many people have a bad habit of using the same credentials for most of their online accounts, this usually works out.” 

According to NordPass, the most popular passwords that consumers use include “123456,” “password” and “12345.”

How can consumers tell if their streaming account has been hacked?

The hack is easy to notice if the credentials get changed. Hackers can change a user’s email address and password to take over accounts and later sell those credentials on the dark web. In situations like this, when a user can no longer log in to their account using the credentials they used before, it is best to contact the service provider to regain control of the account, according the NordVPN.

In some cases, hackers will gain access to an account and leave the credentials alone in the hopes that they can keep using an account without the owner knowing. They could also sell those credentials so that their client on the dark web can use the account. In this situation, it’s important to keep an eye out for strange viewing activity on the account, according the NordVPN.

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“Streaming accounts are easy to restore if they get hacked, but they can give out information about their customers for cybercriminals to use in the future. So it is better to be safe than sorry and protect all of your accounts in advance,” Markuson said in a statement.

Some protective tips include:

  • Use lengthy, complex, and unique passwords for every online account you have. Better yet, employ a password manager that can generate strong passwords and store them for you in one safe place.
  • Go through the privacy settings of your online accounts to check if you can make them even more secure. Invoke all recommended security settings and enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication where possible.
  • If one of your online accounts gets affected by a data breach and you use the same or similar passwords anywhere else, change them immediately to protect them from getting hacked too, exposed on password dumps, or used in credential-stuffing attacks.
  • Stay alert and check your accounts for suspicious activity. If you notice something unusual, report the incident to the service provider. Suspend your account, or better yet, delete it and create a new one.

Lawmakers Introduce Measure Holding Tech Companies Liable for Online Content Piracy

U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced the SMART Copyright Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation that would hold tech accountable by developing widely available measures to combat copyright theft of Hollywood movies, music, podcasts, books and video games.

The proposed law would be an enhancement to the existing Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the 25-year-old landmark bill protecting copyright laws in the internet age, by holding tech companies responsible for third-party content theft.

That’s because after the DMCA was approved, online service providers struck a deal with Congress so they wouldn’t have to pay for copyright theft facilitated by their systems if they worked with copyright owners to create effective standardized technical measures (STM) to identify and protect against distribution of stolen content.

In enacting this grand bargain, Congress envisioned this safe harbor immunity would act as an incentive for platforms and rights holders to collaborate on developing effective measures to combat copyright theft, lower transaction costs, accelerate information sharing, and create a healthy internet for all parties.

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That hasn’t happened, according to Tillis.

“In the fight to combat copyright theft, there is currently no consensus-based standard technical measures and that needs to be addressed,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation … will provide widely available piracy-fighting measures and create a trusted and workable internet for our creative communities.”

Indeed, rather than incentivizing collaboration, the current law actually inhibits it because service providers cannot risk losing their valuable safe harbors if a STM is created. In addition, the current statute provides only one path to establish that a technological measure is a consensus-based STM that must be available to all.

As a result, according to the lawmakers, no STMs have been identified since the law took effect. The issue isn’t whether technical measures to combat rampant copyright infringement exist — plenty do — but rather how to encourage service providers to adopt technical measures to combat stealing and facilitate sharing of critical copyright data.

“The internet has significantly changed, and with it so has the world of copyright,” said Leahy. “The technology exists to protect against this theft; we just need online platforms to use the technology.”

The SMART Copyright Act of 2022 aims to create flexibility so that more existing measures could be eligible for STMs, and it addresses the incentive issue by authorizing the Librarian of Congress to designate through an open, public rulemaking process technical measures identified by stakeholders that certain service providers must accommodate and not interfere with.

“I’m working hard to make sure our artists get paid, and we can enjoy legal access to their wonderful creations,” Leahy said. “I look forward to working with all realms of the copyright community to address the problem of copyright theft.”

British Anti-Piracy Website Adds Disney+ Content

FindAnyFilm.com, working with Disney U.K., June 1 announced it is integrating Disney+ movies and TV shows into its listings, enabling users to search Disney content across all formats — from theatrical screenings to DVD/Blu-ray Disc, digital transactional and subscription streaming VOD. 

The website is operated by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness, a home entertainment organization aimed at thwarting piracy of movies and TV shows on behalf of industry partners, including Hollywood studios.

The U.K. reportedly ranked No. 8 among countries with residents frequenting piracy websites, including 5.75 billion visits in 2018, according to data from MUSO, a London-based data tracking service. The U.S. ranked No. 1 with 17.4 billion visits.

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FindAnyFilm.com contends that informed consumers will undermine piracy. The website says it provides an essential call to action for all anti-piracy outreach. Using the site ensures that consumers in the U.K. can be certain that the content they access comes from a legitimate source, avoiding the legal risks inherent in accessing pirated content.

“The Industry Trust works to keep consumers safe with education about the risks of infringing content, and FindAnyFilm acts as the ideal call to action for all anti-piracy outreach,” Liz Bales, CEO of The Industry Trust and British Association for Screened Entertainment, said in a statement. “Building on the collaborative relationship between The Walt Disney Company and the Industry Trust, Disney+ is a vital addition to the site’s SVOD offerings, which serves our shared goal of ensuring that FindAnyFilm.com is the ultimate destination for consumers to search, find and watch content safely.”

As the only official industry-approved search, find and watch tool for U.K. consumers, FindAnyFilm allows users to access content across all genres, from blockbuster movies to cult classic boxsets. With Disney+ titles now included, consumers benefit from access films and TV shows, including Star content. 

FindAnyFilm.com includes U.K. movie theaters, online physical retailers, including Amazon, Zavvi and Argos, digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store and Google, as well as live TV listings. Users can see what content is available on the Disney+ service by clicking the digital tab on their selected title and finding the Disney+ option.  

Guilty Pleas for Operators of Biggest Illegal Movie/TV Show Streaming Service in the U.S.

Two computer programmers in Las Vegas have pleaded guilty to multiple criminal copyright and money laundering charges related to operating one of the biggest illegal television show and movie streaming services in the United States.

The shuttered services iStreamItAll and Jetflix combined had more content than Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which made the announcement on Dec. 13.

Darryl Julius Polo, a.k.a. djppimp, 36, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of criminal copyright infringement by distributing a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, one count of copyright infringement by reproduction or distribution, one count of copyright infringement by public performance and one count of money laundering.

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In a separate proceeding today, co-defendant Luis Angel Villarino, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.

Sentencing for both defendants is set for next March.

iStreamItAll (ISIA) permitted users to stream and download copyrighted television programs and movies without the permission of the relevant copyright owners.

Defendant Polo admitted that he reproduced tens of thousands of copyrighted television episodes and movies without authorization, and streamed and distributed the infringing programs to thousands of paid subscribers located throughout the U.S.

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Specifically, Polo admitted ISIA offered more than 118,479 different television episodes and 10,980 individual movies. Polo sent out emails to potential subscribers highlighting ISIA’s huge catalog of works and urging them to cancel those licensed services and subscribe to ISIA instead.

According to the DOJ, Polo obtained infringing television programs and movies from pirate sites around the world — including some of the world’s biggest torrent and Usenet NZB sites specializing in infringing content — using various automated computer scripts that ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Specifically, Polo used sophisticated computer programming to scour global pirate sites for new illegal content; to download, process, and store these works; and then make the shows and movies available on servers in Canada to ISIA subscribers for streaming and downloading.

Polo also admitted to running several other piracy services, including a Usenet NZB indexing site called SmackDownOnYou — earning more than $1 million from his piracy operations.

Other defendants in the case are scheduled to go to trial starting on Feb. 3, 2020.

Eight Charged Operating Illegal Video Streaming Services in the U.S.

A federal grand jury in Las Vegas has returned indictments on eight individuals who allegedly operated two of the largest illegal movie streaming services in the country.

According to the indictment, Kristopher Lee Dallmann, 36; Darryl Julius Polo, aka djppimp, 36; Douglas M. Courson, 59; Felipe Garcia, 37; Jared Edward Jaurequi, aka Jared Edwards, 38; Peter H. Huber, 61; Yoany Vaillant, aka Yoany Vaillant Fajardo, 38; and Luis Angel Villarino, 40, allegedly operated an online SVOD service dubbed Jetflicks based in Las Vegas.

The service allegedly enabled subs to download and stream copyrighted movies and TV shows without consent resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in license fees and revenue-sharing.

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According to the complaint filed by Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Jetflicks boasted a content slate of more than 183,000 TV episodes.

One of the defendants, Polo, created a separate service — iStreamItAll — which had more than 115,000 TV episodes and 10,000 movies.

Polo allegedly used many of the same automated tools that Jetflicks employed to locate, download, process and store illegal content, and then quickly make those television programs and movies available on servers in Canada to ISIA subscribers for streaming and/or downloading.

The two services offered access to content for a monthly fee, with ISIA allegedly bragging it had more content than Netflix, Hulu, Vudu and Amazon Prime Video.

According to the indictment, Jetflicks allegedly obtained content from file-sharing platforms notorious for harboring pirated content, including The Pirate Bay, RARBG and Torrentz.

Using specialized  software, the defendants were able to upload and repurpose content for their own operations. Some of the movies offered by ISIA were only available theatrically.