Rightsholders involved in the creation and broadcasting of live events say their businesses face a persistent threat from unlicensed and illegal competition.
Since live sports sector stakeholders are particularly vulnerable, undermining pirate IPTV services is a key priority. Civil enforcement – including hard-fought proactive and real-time ISP blocking measures – may have had some positive effect, but pirate IPTV subscriptions are selling well and rightsholders are still worried.
On the criminal side, multiple police-led operations around Europe often sounded spectacular but didn’t have a significant effect on the market. What rightsholders really want is a change in the law, to compel intermediaries in receipt of a takedown notice to disable streams immediately, or face liability themselves.
Last October, over 100 rightsholders, organizations, and powerful media groups coordinated to demand just that. MPA, UEFA, Premier League, beIN, LaLiga, Serie A, Sky, and BT Sport, to name just a few, told the European Commission to ‘End Live Piracy Now’.
The EC’s answer came three weeks later but for rightsholders, it wasn’t worth the wait. With no legislative instruments or European-wide regulation on the table, the EC pledged to follow up on a European Parliament resolution by offering a “toolbox” to fight the illegal streaming of live events.
EC Calls For Evidence to Fight IPTV Piracy
The European Commission has just issued a call for evidence to ensure that its upcoming “toolbox” contains the right tools to effectively address the IPTV problem, within the boundaries of existing EU law.
“It is necessary to identify effective solutions, in accordance with EU law, to promptly remove or block access to unauthorized retransmissions, taking due account of the nature of the content,” the EC’s announcement reads.
“Various remedies against the unauthorized retransmissions of content are already provided for in the EU legislation. In particular, the recently adopted DSA constitutes a robust general framework to counter illegal content online.
“It harmonizes the rules on notice and action mechanisms, and will streamline the processing of notices sent to providers of hosting services to remove unauthorized retransmissions of live events.”
Whether the Digital Services Act (DSA) can provide sufficient tools remains to be seen. The EC cites no additional benefits beyond a more streamlined takedown process. Instead the focus is on tools already in use – injunctions against infringers and intermediaries, plus dynamic ISP blocking orders.
“The Commission will recommend to Member States and market players the best use of these existing tools for the specific case of unauthorized retransmissions of live events. It will also aim at promoting cooperation between market players and between the relevant administrative authorities established in certain Member States,” the EC adds.
Over the past few years the EU has published a number of in-depth piracy reports, detailing the IPTV landscape, challenges faced by sports broadcasters, and the use of dynamic blocking injunctions (pdf).
On the other side, rightsholders have listed their demands extremely clearly. They need real-time stream takedown tools, toughened repeat-infringer policies, and ‘take down means stay down’ measures.
Given that the EC disappointed rightsholders last year, it’s not inconceivable that leverage points will be found under copyright law and the DSA to allow the parties to meet somewhere in the middle. At this stage, however, the EC is promoting the efficient use of tools that are already available, such as ‘notice and action’ mechanisms supported by blocking injunctions.
If these existing measures prove insufficient, all is not lost. The EC says that subject to an assessment, it will propose new legislation to mitigate the problem.
“The Commission will set up a monitoring system to assess the effects of the recommendation on the effectiveness of the legal remedies, based on the information gathered in particular from Member States, the EUIPO Observatory on infringements of IP rights, rightholders and intermediaries,” the EC says.
“This will ensure appropriate follow-up, including by proposing legislation if the desired results are not achieved.”
The EC initiative “Combating online piracy of live content” is live and accepting stakeholder input until February 10, 2023.