Based on rightsholder input, sites and services considered particularly troublesome are publicly named to raise awareness, focus minds, and shape policy to meet the challenges ahead. The USTR publishes a similar annual report that operates along broadly the same lines and shares similar goals.
This year’s Counterfeiting and Piracy Watch List features services including Mega and Fmovies. They are joined by several pirate IPTV providers that may attract additional attention over the next 12 months.
IPTV: A Billion Euro Problem for the EU
A new study estimates that pirate IPTV services illegally generate over a billion euros in annual revenue, in the EU alone.
It’s not uncommon for industry-commissioned reports to face skepticism; they exist to support lobbying efforts, tighter legislation, and if all goes to plan, an increase in profits. The EC’s Piracy Watch List is used in the same way but reading between the lines, rightsholders face significant challenges that go beyond a large headline monetary sum.
BestBuyIPTV – Persistent Pirates
According to the EC’s report, BestBuyIPTV offers more than 10,000 channels sourced from 38 different countries, plus 19,000 VOD titles in multiple languages. For maximum convenience, it’s available on multiple operating systems and according to its own claims, services over 900,000 users, has 12,000 resellers, and a network of 2,000 restreamers. If the brand sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that.
The MPA branded BestBuyIPTV a ‘notorious market’ back in 2018, noting that it was “likely” to be located in Italy. The MPA reported the service to the US Government again a year later, but in the 2021 ‘Notorious Markets’ report, Italy was no longer cited as a hosting location.
“Utilizes reverse proxy services to mask the location of its hosting servers,” the report declared.
Network configurations like this enhance security on millions of websites but can also hinder investigators looking for pirate servers. What happened next isn’t clear but in a follow-up announcement, the MPA said that BestBuyIPTV actually operates from Vietnam.
All hosting locations are subject to change but one thing is certain. Similar providers and their hosts are being configured from the ground up with obfuscation in mind and according to reports seen by TorrentFreak, enforcement problems can be severe.
VolkaIPTV.com is another persistent IPTV provider on the EC’s Piracy Watch List. According to the latest report it operates from Algeria. Or maybe Morocco.
It’s definitely popular in France though and depending on who provides the data, offers 7,500 TV channels or maybe as many as 9,000. As far as films and TV series go, the service has offered 17,000 and 1,000 respectively over the past few years, according to most reports.
The location or identity of the current operator isn’t mentioned by anyone but according to beIN, which nominated the service for inclusion on the list (pdf), VolkaIPTV was founded by a Tunisian national in 2015.
King365tv – Down? Out? Or Just Moving?
King365tv is another IPTV provider causing regular headaches. LaLiga reported the service to the US Government in 2020 but didn’t elaborate with a precise country or location.
Instead, it described this type of piracy as “particularly complex” and in most cases “organized cross-border crime,” with hosting, customer support modules, streaming and authentication servers rarely found in one place, or even one country.
“To determine to which country an IPTV belongs, a professional on-site investigation is required in order to identify who are the IPTV administrators and their location,” LaLiga said.
The new EC report says that King365tv reportedly operates from Algeria but the listed domains – theking365tv.pro and king365tv.com – are currently non-functional. Whether that’s the result of anti-piracy action is unclear but, at the time of writing, visitors to VolkaIPTV.com are immediately offered King365-branded IPTV packages on the front page.
Logically these may trace back to Algeria. Or maybe Morocco.
Significant Challenges Ahead
As highlighted by LaLiga, it’s not uncommon for IPTV infrastructure to cross borders, but in reality, any part could be anywhere and when necessary, still report as being somewhere else. In any event, anti-piracy groups can’t monitor everything all of the time, or even close to that.
Take the issue of source content, typically TV channels. These are captured all around the world and then sold to any number of intermediaries, who in turn may bundle those streams and sell them on to other interested parties, with their own individual goals.
Selling subscription packages directly to users is one option but some prefer to access the market via a network of resellers, who in turn are often already involved in other networks doing the same thing. From the top to the bottom, from both technical and human perspectives, global IPTV is a network of networks that defies boundaries and fuels even more piracy.
“This complex network of copying, re-selling, exchanging and re-streaming broadcasters’ content constitutes a parallel black market that explains the multiplication of a single stream of a TV channel, eventually available not only in hundreds of unlicensed IPTV services but also in illegal streaming websites and online content-sharing service providers,” the EC’s report explains.
“Moreover, this complex network is the result of cooperation of illegal operators from various countries, making it difficult to find out the identity and precise location of an IPTV operator.”
As touched on earlier, anti-piracy groups are all too aware of methods that mostly exist to frustrate enforcement. These issues can’t be solved overnight, but with the right kind of help, all things become possible.
We’ll publish details of a specific high-level approach in the coming days.