Increasingly, people are canceling their expensive cable subscriptions, opting to use cheaper or niche-based Internet TV instead.
While there are plenty of legal options available, there’s also a broad offer of easy-to-use set-top boxes which are specifically configured to receive pirated content.
These pirate IPTV boxes are often sold bundled with a monthly or yearly subscription. This created an industry that’s worth billions of dollars worldwide and may grow even bigger.
It is safe to conclude that IPTV piracy makes up a large part of the pirate ecosystem. This hasn’t gone unnoticed to copyright holders of course. Over the past year, we have seen enforcement actions against hundreds of sellers and more are likely to follow.
Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is one of the outfits that have IPTV-pirates high on their agenda. This was highlighted in an interview with local radio station BNR in which director Tim Kuik referred to the criminal nature of this problem.
While IPTV sellers come in all shapes and sizes, the true masterminds behind the pirated signals often remain unseen. According to BREIN, many resellers are actually afraid to identify their sources.
“The signals are stolen by criminal organizations. These set up the infrastructure and provide vendors with the codes. Sellers are afraid to name their suppliers out of fear of retaliation. ‘That would put my life at risk,’ we regularly hear.”
The Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group mostly takes action against public sellers. It tracks down these companies and successfully demands hefty settlements. However, in order to tackle the problem properly, more resources are needed.
“We target sellers and take their money. A settlement costs them tens of thousands of euros, but to tackle the infrastructure you need better resources and a criminal investigation,” BREIN notes.
Potential investigations should target the criminal masterminds behind the scenes but BREIN says that Dutch hosting providers should remain alert as well. Also, providers who willingly host illegal IPTV services should face charges themselves.
“Providers who shelter such illegal services and willingly turn a blind eye should be prosecuted,” the anti-piracy group argues.
Because of its good Internet infrastructure, the Netherlands is typically a popular location for IPTV vendors to host their services. These ISPs generally claim that they are not aware of the criminal nature of their clients. However, many rightsholders have their doubts about that.
According to BREIN, there is a small number of Dutch hosting providers that frequently does business with these IPTV services. These companies don’t get actively involved when complaints come in but forward them to their customers instead.
“Reports of rightsholders are only forwarded to the criminals who obviously do nothing with it. If the provider has to take action, it gives the illegal customer plenty of time to keep his service online,” BREIN adds.
Whether the hosting companies are required to do more under Dutch law remains the question. However, BREIN would clearly like these companies to take more responsibility. Or, alternatively, have a proper criminal investigation where the role of a hosting provider is seriously considered.
In the past, we have already reported on large Europol raids where servers in the Netherlands were targeted. However, as far as we know, Dutch hosting providers were never accused or criminally charged as part of these operations.