BREIN Battled ISPs For Years; They’re United Against Pirate IPTV Services

Home > Anti-Piracy >

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN and local ISPs Ziggo and KPN have long been at odds over the issue of piracy. In particular, the thorny issue of whether The Pirate Bay should be blocked in the Netherlands, dragged on for years. But now, as BREIN continues its battle against pirate IPTV providers, the ISPs' sales of bundled TV services are also feeling the squeeze. Suddenly, all three agree; something more substantial is required to counter the growth of pirate IPTV.

streaming-laptopWay back in 2010, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN embarked on a mission to have The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands.

Ziggo, the country’s largest ISP, had been asked to implement a DNS and IP address blockade but when BREIN’s overtures were declined, legal action ensued.

Ziggo was subsequently joined by XS4ALL, a rival ISP which also opposed site-blocking measures. After The Court of The Hague decided that blocking all customers from accessing The Pirate Bay went too far, BREIN dug in for the long haul and prepared for a full trial.

In January 2012, BREIN emerged victorious. At the time, downloading copyrighted material was still considered legal in the Netherlands, but the uploads associated with BitTorrent were always illegal, tipping the case decisively in BREIN’s favor.

Years of appeals and intense legal action followed, including a trip to the Supreme Court and a referral to the EU Court of Justice. In 2017, after the CJEU effectively found The Pirate Bay itself illegal, the matter continued to be fought tooth and nail, sucking in other ISPs, KPN included.

This particular chapter was almost over, but another one had begun years earlier and was only just getting warmed up.

Pirate IPTV Takes the Netherlands By Storm

Tackling pirate IPTV services has been a BREIN priority for a number of years. Providers, sometimes extremely large ones, have fallen as part of BREIN’s investigations, but the anti-piracy group is just as much at home targeting sellers, resellers, and set-top box vendors. BREIN has tackled hundreds of these entities over the years, picking up landmark judgments on the way.

For ISPs like Ziggo and KPN, the existence of bandwidth-hungry pirate IPTV consumers might’ve once been good for business. Today, however, sales of broadband subscriptions constitute just part of their overall product range. In common with BREIN’s clients active in the movie and TV show production and distribution business, selling access to legal content represents an important revenue source for companies that today are much more than ‘just’ an ISP.

Increasing numbers of pirate IPTV users can be directly linked to fewer sales of legal TV packages, the ISPs argue. In an ideal world the ISPs should be selling these to the majority of their customers, but reports suggest that’s becoming increasingly difficult.

Interests of BREIN and ISPs Align

Reports vary but it’s believed that around 1.5 million Dutch households currently subscribe to a pirate IPTV service. With a total population edging towards 18 million, that’s a sizeable figure. It pushes the Netherlands close to the top of the most prolific pirate IPTV consumers list for the whole of the EU where there is no shortage of competition.

With the interests of BREIN and those of the ISPs suddenly aligned, it appears that all three are now speaking the same language. According to a report published at (paywall), pressure on sales has led the previously warring factions to call on the state to take a stronger line against the runaway growth of illegal IPTV.

The Public Prosecution Service is seen as a potential ally but according to the report, the service has doubts about taking a tough approach. Larger pirate IPTV services are the usual targets when the state considers criminal prosecutions. Beyond that, it’s suggested that action against intermediaries or end users should be tackled by entities like BREIN, under civil, rather than criminal law.

Raising Awareness

Raising awareness among consumers is seen as an area that could yield results but as the figures show, awareness of what makes pirate IPTV services attractive to consumers is already widespread. Typically available for up to 90% cheaper than official services, pirate IPTV services deliver most content offered by dozens of individual legal services, bundled into a single subscription package with all content readily accessible from the same place.

Rightsholders’ definition of awareness focuses on the potential downsides; financing criminal organizations, fueling other types of crime, malware, and set-top boxes capable of stealing banking credentials, among other things. For some consumers this type of messaging may have the desired effect but in ‘underground’ circles, where the grapevine and shared experiences rule, none of these issues carry much weight. At least, not enough weight to tip the scales against savings of up to 150 euros per month.

Future Cooperation

That BREIN, Ziggo, and KPN now appear to agree on the need to tackle IPTV services is logical, if a little unexpected. BREIN’s activities that require the assistance of local ISPs rarely run smoothly. Ziggo, for example, refused to forward piracy warning notices to its customers, leading to yet another face-off in court, from which Ziggo came out on top.

That being said, BREIN will likely appreciate any alignment and, as the site-blocking ‘Covenant’ currently in place shows, cooperation isn’t impossible, or even out of the question. In all likelihood, it’s simply a matter of timing.

Image credits: (1, 2)


Popular Posts
From 2 Years ago…