Forty Percent of All Mexican Roku Users are Pirates

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Mexican courts have put a ban on Roku sales in the country, but until now the prevalence of Roku-related piracy was largely unknown. New figures released by a Mexican market research firm add some context and estimate that forty percent of all Roku owners in the country use the device to access pirated content.

In recent years it has become much easier to stream movies and TV-shows over the Internet.

Legal services such as Netflix and HBO are flourishing, but there’s also a darker side to this streaming epidemic.

Millions of people are streaming from unauthorized sources, often paired with perfectly legal streaming platforms and devices. This issue has become particularly problematic for Roku, which sells easy-to-use media players.

Last week federal judges in Mexico City and Torreón decided that Roku sales should remain banned there, keeping last year’s suspension in place. While the ruling can still be appealed, it hurts Roku’s bottom line.

The company has more than a million users in Mexico according to statistics released by the Competitive Intelligence Unit (CIU), a local market research firm. That’s a significant number, but so is the percentage of pirating Roku users in Mexico.

“Roku has 1.1 million users in the country, of which 40 percent use it to watch content illegally,” Gonzalo Rojon, ICU’s director of ICT research, writes.

“There are 575 thousand users who access the illegal content and that is comparable to the number of subscribers a small pay-TV operator has,” he adds.

While this is indeed a significant number, that doesn’t make the Roku boxes illegal by default. There are millions who use Windows to pirate stuff, or web browsers like Chrome and Firefox, but these are generally not seen as problematic.

Still, several Mexican judges have ruled that sales should be banned so for the time being it remains that way.

According to Rojon, these type of measures are imperative to ensure that copyright holders are protected from online piracy, now that more and more content is moving online.

“Although for some people this type of action seems radical, I think it is very important that the shift towards more digitalization is accompanied by copyright and intellectual property protection, so it continues to promote innovation and a healthy competitive environment in the digital world,” he notes.

Roku clearly disagrees and last week the company told us that it will do everything in its power to have the current sales ban overturned.

“While Roku’s devices have always been and remain legal to use in Mexico, the current ban harms consumers, the retail sector and the industry. We will vigorously pursue further legal actions with the aim of restoring sales of Roku devices in Mexico,” the company said.

Meanwhile, Roku is working hard to shake the piracy elements off its platform. Last year it began showing FBI warnings to users of ‘pirate channels’ and just this week removed the entire USTVnow service from its platform.

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