The online piracy ecosystem is constantly evolving.
Ten years ago the entertainment industries were mostly concerned with torrent sites. Today, different types of unauthorized online streaming are the main challenge.
To tackle this threat, some of the largest companies in the world bundled their powers. In 2017 they formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which lists prominent members including major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and other entertainment giants.
More recently, Internet providers started to join the alliance. Earlier this month Comcast was presented as the first ISP to join, but the Canadian company Bell is also a member. Yesterday, Charter was added to the growing group.
The addition of these names isn’t a complete surprise as most telecom companies are content companies as well nowadays. As such, they have a vested interest in limiting online piracy. Thus far, ACE has done so by focusing on bringing down unauthorized streaming services, including Set TV and Dragon Box.
However, there’s another threat on the horizon that needs to be addressed: password sharing. While it is is far removed from the typical piracy scenario where someone shares a file without permission, sharing a password is also seen as facilitating unauthorized access.
Most media platforms haven’t strictly enforced this type of unauthorized use but, according to ACE, the issue is now on the agenda.
A working group will focus on reducing unauthorized access to content. While this is a rather broad description, ACE adds that it will offer opportunities to share “best practices” on issues including “improper password sharing” and “inadequate encryption.”
Tom Rutledge, CEO of ACE’s newest member, Charter, immediately embraced the password sharing topic, which the company is looking forward to addressing.
“We are very pleased that ACE and its coalition of members have committed through this initiative to take on unauthorized password sharing and other content security practices, and we look forward to working together on this important issue,” Rutledge said.
According to Charter, both creators, distributors, and consumers will benefit from a unified strategy to tackle this and other ‘piracy’ threats.
“Consumer, creators, and distributors alike will benefit from collaborative solutions that make content more secure and curtail unauthorized copyright use and distribution, while preserving the customer’s ability to enjoy the content rights they’ve purchased on the network, platform, device, and locations to which they subscribe,” Rutledge adds.
This isn’t the first time Charter has mentioned password sharing as a problem. Last week, the company also highlighted this as part of a new content distribution deal with Fox.
Also, ACE’s focus on password sharing comes roughly two weeks after its member Netflix addressed the issue in its latest quarterly earnings call. There, Netflix chief product officer Greg Peters said that the company will continue to monitor the situation, adding that no concrete actions are planned yet.
“So we’re looking at the situation and, you know, we’ll see, getting those consumer-friendly ways to push on the edges of that, but I think we’ve got no big plans to announce at this point in time in terms of doing something differently there,” Peters said.
According to research published by Magid last year, Netflix alone could miss out on roughly $135 million in subscriptions alone due to password sharing, which is a rather substantial amount.
However, as is often the case with “unauthorized” access, these one-on-one calculations are not very reliable. It’s unrealistic to think and all the people who share passwords now will suddenly pay for a subscription if they can’t. In fact, some people may simply cancel theirs, if they can’t share a password.
This may be where ACE comes in. With all the major streaming players combined in a single anti-piracy coalition, they have the opportunity to streamline their strategies in “best practices”, so consumers don’t simply walk over to the next competitor.
With ACE’s focus on password sharing, it’s clear that the problem is being taken seriously, and that countermeasures are being considered.
TorrentFreak reached out to ACE for further details on password sharing and how it compares to traditional piracy, but the organization has yet to provide a comment.
We also asked the group about Charter’s involvement in a rather prominent piracy lawsuit, where several major music labels accuse the ISP of not doing enough to curb piracy. We have yet to hear back on that as well.