Website blocking has become one of the leading anti-piracy mechanisms in recent years and is particularly prevalent across Europe, where thousands of sites are now off-limits by regular means.
More recently the practice spread to Australia, where movie and music industry bodies have filed several applications at the Federal Court. This has rendered dozens of major torrent and streaming inaccessible in the region, after local ISPs complied with orders compelling them to prevent subscriber access.
While such blocking is now commonplace, Village Roadshow and a coalition of movie studios have now switched tack, targeting an operation offering subscription-based IPTV services.
The action targets HDSubs+, a fairly well-known service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee, at least versus the real deal.
ComputerWorld reports that the application for the injunction was filed last month. In common with earlier requests, it targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus the subsidiaries.
Access to HDSubs.com appears to be limited, possibly by the platform’s operators, so that visitors from desktop machines are redirected back to Google. However, access to the platform is available by other means and that reveals a fairly pricey IPTV offering.
As seen in the image below, the top package (HD Subs+), which includes all the TV anyone could need plus movies and TV shows on demand, weighs in at US$239.99 per year, around double the price of similar packages available elsewhere.
If the court chooses to grant the injunction, ISPs will not only have to block the service’s main domain (HDSubs.com) but also a range of others which provide the infrastructure for the platform.
Unlike torrent and streaming sites which tend to be in one place (if we discount proxies and mirrors), IPTV services like HD Subs often rely on a number of domains to provide a sales platform, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android app), updates, and sundry other services.
As per CW, in the HD Subs case they are: ois001wfr.update-apk.com, ois005yfs.update-apk.com, ois003slp.update-apk.com, update002zmt.hiddeniptv.com, apk.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg003uix.hiddeniptv.com, crossepg002gwj.hiddeniptv.com, mpbs001utb.hiddeniptv.com, soft001rqv.update-apk.com and hdsubs.com.
This switch in tactics by Village Roadshow and the other studios involved is subtle but significant. While torrent and streaming sites provide a largely free but fragmented experience, premium IPTV services are direct commercial competitors, often providing a more comprehensive range of channels and services than the broadcasters themselves.
While quality may not always be comparable with their licensed counterparts, presentation is often first class, giving the impression of an official product which is comfortably accessed via a living room TV. This is clearly a concern to commercial broadcasters.
As reported last week, global IPTV traffic is both huge and growing, so expect more of these requests Down Under.
Previous efforts to block IPTV services include those in the UK, where the Premier League takes targeted action against providers who provide live soccer. These measures only target live streams when matches are underway and as far as we’re aware, there are no broader measures in place against any provider.
This could mean that the action in Australia, to permanently block a provider in its entirety, is the first of its kind anywhere.