In common with several top football leagues around Europe, Italy’s Serie A has an ongoing problem with piracy of its live broadcasts.
Sites with embedded streaming players regularly show Serie A matches but perhaps the biggest threat is posed by unlicensed IPTV services. These offer subscription packages that closely mimic and can even outdo those delivered by Serie A’s official broadcasting partners.
This has provoked a range of anti-piracy actions, such as the one now being reported by anti-piracy group FAPAV (Federazione Anti-Pirateria Audiovisiva). Following a complaint by Serie A and a request from the public prosecutor’s office, the Court of Rome has handed down a preventative ruling that requires 15 websites offering ‘pirate’ IPTV services to be blocked in Italy.
“Among the methods of access to pirated content, illegal IPTVs are a phenomenon of great importance and with a growing incidence linked not only to audiovisual content but also to live sporting events,” says FAPAV Secretary-General, Federico Bagnoli Rossi.
“According to FAPAV / Ipsos research, five million people use this method to watch movies, series and TV shows. As regards sports content in particular, 4.7 million people watched live sports events in a non-legal manner, a figure that has increased compared to 2017.”
FAPAV says that these types of pirate services not only cause damage to the entertainment industries but also to the economy as a whole. As a result, those affected cannot wait any longer before taking action to stem the tide.
While the ruling from the Court of Rome is yet to be published, the big question here is how effective these types of blockades can be, given the way that IPTV services are set up.
As previously reported, Sky has been working hard to have IPTV service management platform URLs removed from Google search. However, other than a reduction in search traffic, the tactic does little if anything to affect the underlying IPTV services which are generally not run from the domains in question.
Furthermore, the effect of blocking sales portal domains does nothing to counter the thousands of resellers funneling customers to the platforms either. It’s an important point that FAPAV appears to recognize, even going as far as suggesting that customers themselves could become part of their inquiries.
“The ongoing investigations have as a main objective the identification of the complex structure of the organization made up of dozens of ‘resellers’ as well as the hundreds of customers who, by purchasing the subscriptions, not only illegally take advantage of the vision of sporting events and pay-per-view television schedules, but also feed the criminal circuit,” the group says.
“The piracy market represents a very thriving business that rests on a large number of customers who feed it, probably unaware of the consequences to which they expose themselves and of the economic damage to the rights holders when compared to citizens who honestly buy regular products.”
It’s clear that no single aspect of anti-piracy activity, whether that’s sales site blocking or targeting some resellers, will bring all pirate IPTV services to their knees. Instead, groups like FAPAV are deploying a multi-pronged strategy that attempts to disrupt activity wherever it can, thus making life more difficult for pirates and their customers.
Blocking of IPTV services has been taking place in Italy since at least 2017 and in the summer of 2019, a “high-level” provider was taken down after providing Sky programming to the public.
Italian authorities were also heavily involved in the raids that targeted Xtream-Codes and others last year, an operation that caused the most disruption the IPTV scene has ever seen, even if it did eventually recover.