Riding the crest of a wave made possible by the rise of Internet streaming, piracy-enabled set-top boxes and similar devices have been hitting the homes of millions around the globe.
Often given the broad title of ‘Kodi Boxes’ after the legal open source software that commonly comes pre-installed, these devices are regularly configured for piracy with the aid of third-party addons.
Easy to use, set-top devices have opened up piracy to a whole new audience, normalizing it during the process. It’s a problem now being grappled with by anti-piracy outfits in a number of ways, including putting pressure on services where the boxes are being sold.
Now there are signs that Facebook has decided – or more likely been persuaded – to ban the sale of these devices from its platform. The latest addition to its Commerce Policy carries a new rule (13) which targets infringing set-top boxes almost perfectly.
“Items, products or services sold on Facebook must comply with our Community Standards, as well as the Commerce Policies,” the page reads.
“Sale of the following is prohibited on Facebook: Products or items that facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media.”
The move by Facebook follows similar overtures from Amazon back in March. In a change to its policies, the company said that devices that promote or facilitate infringement would not be tolerated.
“Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorized access to digital media or other protected content,” Amazon said.
“Any streaming media player or other device that violates this policy is prohibited from sale on Amazon,” the company added.
The recent move by Facebook was welcomed by Federation Against Copyright Theft chief, Kieron Sharp.
“It is great to see Facebook follow the likes of Amazon and eBay in making changes to their policies to prohibit the sale of illicit streaming devices on their platforms,” Sharpe said.
“These days social media sites are more than just a place to share photos and comments with friends and family. Unfortunately, the fast-paced development of these sites are being exploited by opportunists for criminal activity which needs to be disrupted.”
The sale of infringing devices on social media does indeed pose a challenge to the likes of FACT.
While most piracy devices have traditionally needed an expert touch to configure and then sell, in 2017 almost anyone can buy a standard Android device and set it up for piracy in a matter of minutes. This means that every interested citizen is a potential seller and Facebook provides a perfect platform that people are already familiar with.
Nevertheless, recent rulings from the EU Court of Justice have clarified two key issues, both of which will help in the fight to reduce the availability of ‘pirate’ boxes, wherever they appear.
In April, the ECJ declared such devices illegal to sell while clarifying that users who stream pirate content to their homes are also breaking the law.
It’s unlikely that any end users will be punished (particularly to the ridiculous extent erroneously reported by some media), but it certainly helps to demonstrate illegality across the board when outfits like FACT are considering prosecutions.