Brazil Regulator Claims “80% of Pirate TV Boxes” Were Blocked Last Week

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Brazil's telecoms regulator Anatel claims that during an operation last week, it successfully blocked around 80% of pirate 'TV boxes' in the country. Estimates from early 2023 suggest that seven million were active in Brazil. The operation, claimed to be the most significant ever carried out, arrives just weeks after Google & Cisco were criticized for "turning a blind eye" to the IPTV piracy problem.

blocked-tvsetAuthorities and rightsholders in Brazil appear determined to disrupt, restrict, or completely deny access to the illegal TV market enjoyed by millions of local citizens.

From taking on pirate IPTV services to the outlawing of non-certified set-top boxes, to blocking illegal streaming websites and the removal of pirate apps, no target is off limits. One of the agencies at the forefront of this anti-piracy activity is the National Telecommunications Agency, better known as Anatel.

Earlier his year, Anatel and Brazil’s National Film Agency (Ancine) announced a new anti-piracy partnership. In addition to mass seizures of non-certified Android-type devices, Anatel said that blocking would continue to play a key role in the fight against seven million pirate set-top devices (local term ‘TV Box’) said to be active in the country.

New Anti-Piracy Lab Unveiled

Early September saw the official unveiling of Anatel’s brand new Anti-Piracy Laboratory in Brasília. Capable of conducting technical analysis of equipment and the methods used to distribute pirated content, the lab boasts 12 large screens for monitoring purposes, six workstations for in-house use, and remote access for workers elsewhere.

The New Lab (Image credit: Anatel)Anatel-AP-Lab

During the inauguration ceremony last month, Anatel revealed that 29 operations had resulted in the seizure of 1.4 million uncertified devices. The telecoms agency added that 1,400 IP addresses that “enabled the operation of pirate TV Boxes” were subjected to blocking.

Anatel Claims Massive Progress

According to an Anatel announcement last Thursday (October 26), over 3,000 servers enabling millions of pirate ‘TV Boxes’ have been blocked in Brazil since the start of 2023. That’s more than double the figure Anatel reported last month, but an even bigger surprise came via reports of an Anatel operation carried out on Thursday.

Based on data supplied by the agency, local media reports (1,2,3) stated that Anatel had somehow managed to either block 80% of all TV boxes currently active in Brazil, or had blocked servers supplying 80% of TV boxes.

Big Claim: A paragraph from just one of many publicationsAnatelBlocks80

Whatever the approach, if Anatel had somehow managed to prevent 80% of all TV boxes receiving pirated content in the space of a year, that would be an extraordinary achievement. Even a week would be astonishing but the claim of millions in a day seems either incredible, non-credible, or entirely dependent on more important information or nuance that isn’t being reported.

Another angle is that disruption on a large scale tends to register in search results and Google data on various related search terms doesn’t seem to reflect millions of TV boxes suddenly going dark in Brazil last week. At least, not for any significant length of time.

Google & Cisco Are “Obstacles” in Fight Against Piracy

On the first day of the PAYTV Forum in São Paulo early August, Anatel’s Moisés Moreira strongly suggested that in order for blocking to be more effective, ‘tech giants’ (including one starting with ‘G’) should assist in the fight against piracy.

“I have already determined a period of one week for them to manifest themselves and if that does not happen, we will escalate the enforcement, even judicialization by the agency,” Moreira said.

A media report dated September 22 described both Google and Cisco as thorns in Anatel’s side and accused them of turning a blind eye to piracy. It was alleged that when the companies receive blocking requests from rightsholders, the companies ignore them.

While both companies declined to comment, it’s still unclear what they’re being asked to do. On the one hand the dispute appears to focus on the companies’ public DNS services, the use of which enables users to circumvent local DNS blockades when domains are subjected to blocking. On the other, Anatel’s Moisés Moreira also spoke about the importance of blocking IP addresses.

That leads back to Anatel’s apparent ability to block 3,000 servers thus far in 2023, the claimed blocking of 80% of all TV boxes last week (and what that really amounted to in practical terms), and whether Anatel is now receiving help, and if so, from whom.

Certainly not the clearest of pictures, unlike those of the new lab, which are pretty impressive.


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