Sports leagues and their TV broadcasting partners all over Europe are working hard to combat the supply and sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions.
Available for just a few euros, pounds or dollars per month, pirate IPTV subscriptions allow users to watch all the live TV content they’ll ever need, plus PPV events, movies and TV shows in one convenient package. Rightsholders see them as a threat to their survival so significant resources are expended to bring IPTV providers and distributors to justice.
LaLiga Strikes Again
Top-tier Spanish football league LaLiga is now tackling live streaming piracy on all fronts. From a few early steps in 2016/2017 and more recently in 2022, services are being dynamically blocked and many individuals have been arrested for broadcasting or selling access to the league’s games without permission.
An announcement this week by Spain’s National Police reveals that La Liga is keeping its foot on the gas. In 2019, LaLiga launched an investigation into a website advertised on social media that was being used to illegally market football content plus other material belonging to a “well-known” on-demand television platform.
According to police sources, the site offered subscriptions to illegal IPTV and CCCAM services. Where IPTV streams contain actual video content, CCCAM services capture encryption codes from legal subscriber viewing cards and then, via the internet, distribute them to set-top boxes that have access to a source (such as a satellite) but don’t have a legal subscription – so-called ‘card sharing’.
In addition to selling both types of subscriptions, the site also had a blog where technical support was given to users.
LaLiga Investigation Goes in Two Directions
To target the individuals involved, LaLiga’s investigation went in two directions. In the first instance, it sought to identify the person behind the pirate network and discover the technical infrastructure supporting the illicit broadcasts.
LaLiga then took a ‘follow-the-money’ approach to determine how subscribers paid for subscriptions, leading investigators to a financial payment platform. This enabled the identification of two individuals in Malaga who are believed to be the main people behind the operation.
National Police Make Two Arrests
On Monday, Spain’s National Police said that following LaLiga’s investigation, two people had been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling access to premium audiovisual content distributed via the Internet and satellite.
“They have been arrested for crimes against intellectual property, against conditional television broadcasting services, and electric power fraud. They had a high degree of technological specialization. To carry out their illicit activities they used a sophisticated infrastructure to provide services to their clients,” a police statement reads.
Gross revenues generated by the suspects are yet to be revealed but at least for now, police say that the profit made exceeds €87,500 (US$95,400).
Given that LaLiga’s anti-piracy efforts are increasing and enjoying success on multiple fronts, it’s worth looking at how the league is tackling piracy using in-house tools.
LaLiga Develops Its Own Anti-Piracy Tools
In February 2015, LaLiga launched a piece of web-spidering software called ‘Marauder’. It scans the web looking for hot terms such as team names (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, etc) and assesess whether any ‘hits’ are related to piracy. If they are, Marauder identifies the provider/server and sends automatic infringement notices to web-based platforms and apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to have the content removed.
LaLiga says that Marauder can also detect illegal IPTV streams and card sharing operations. In these cases, infringement notices are sent to infrastructure providers to have the related servers blocked or taken down. The system is also used to identify sites selling illegal subscriptions. As previously reported, these are then sent to Google for delisting from its search engine.
Marauder can also provide a visual map that helps LaLiga geo-locate illegal websites but more recently LaLiga has discussed its ‘Blackhole’ tool which appears to map illegal IPTV services at a national and international level. Finally, LaLiga’s Lumière tool assists with investigations by extracting and signing digital evidence and preparing evidence for legal action.
Technology created by LaLiga is also being used by other industries to protect their intellectual property. In February, LaLiga said its LaLiga Tech subsidiary (which operates LaLiga Content Protection) had signed a deal with CEDRO, an association representing creators in the publishing sector.
“LaLiga Content Protection will detect and analyse illegal domains using artificial intelligence monitoring software across the world’s major search engines and social media platforms, allowing it to identify the source of illegal content and speeding up the process through which CEDRO can request the disabling and blocking of pirated material,” the company said.