LaLiga “Talks to Google” About Deleting Piracy Apps From a Million Phones

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On Saturday the head of LaLiga spoke of the piracy challenges faced by top-tier Spanish football. Javier Tebas said in the first five days of the new season, LaLiga 'eliminated" 58 pirate apps with over a million downloads in Spain. He said that LaLiga is now talking to Google about "locating" the apps already downloaded on users' phones so they too can be "eliminated". If it can be done for child abuse images, then it can be done for piracy tools too, Tebas said.

destroyAn event organized by Spanish football league LaLiga took place at the Museum of Arts and Sciences of Valencia yesterday.

LaLiga were joined at “Fight Against Piracy in Sporting Events” by Víctor Francos Díaz, Spain’s recently appointed Secretary of State for Sports and president of the Higher Sports Council (CSD), and MEP Iban García del Blanco.

Citing data recently published by the European Intellectual Property Office, which found that piracy in the EU grew by 3.3 % in 2022, the CSD president said piracy remains a problem for sports groups like LaLiga and for governments around Europe. That report didn’t actually contain any data on the IPTV-based piracy plaguing LaLiga, but there’s no doubt that the league has its hands full.

Scale of the Problem

LaLiga’s efforts to contain IPTV piracy services began eight years ago and according to local media, La Liga’s anti-piracy department now detects over 46,000 IP addresses around the world broadcasting pirated live sports.

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas reported that during the first five days of the new Spanish football season, it had “eliminated” 58 Android-based piracy apps believed to have been downloaded by four million users worldwide. Tebas said that 800,000 of those users are in Spain where they use the app to watch pirated football streams.

The figures relating to Apple devices are smaller, around a million users worldwide, 300,000 of them in Spain. Overall that’s roughly 1.1 million users of these pirate apps in Spain, a considerable number but only part of the overall picture.

Terminology and Definitions Are Important

What LaLiga means by “eliminated” isn’t clear and that in itself muddies the waters when trying to build a picture on achievements and failures. On one hand, the complete destruction of 58 apps and their infrastructure would be a monumental achievement but if 58 apps were only removed from app stores or blocked by ISPs, any gains might already have been wiped out as pirates adjust.

The tell-tale signs that “eliminated” means something other than total destruction were evident as Tebas outlined another problem facing LaLiga. While it may well have restricted the availability of dozens of apps, LaLiga is in no position to do anything about the copies that have already been downloaded and installed on users’ phones.

Tebas describes this as another problem LaLiga faced, which probably speaks volumes about the status of the “eliminated” apps. If we assume that non-functional “eliminated” piracy apps are useless and therefore of little concern to LaLiga, only functional apps are problematic. If the already downloaded apps can still rely on functional internet infrastructure, getting rebranded apps back into the marketplace won’t be a problem for pirates.

That being said, Tebas believes that eliminating downloaded apps has value, and it appears that work towards that is already underway.

LaLiga is “Talking to Google”

“That is another of our fights: that those who have them downloaded on their mobile phones already have them and now we have to work to eliminate them,” Tebas said, as quoted by local media.

“We are talking to Google and other platforms so that they can be located on those mobile phones. If it can be done and it is done, for example, for crimes such as child pornography, for intellectual property, which is stealing, they should have to do it too.”

It’s been quite some time since the protection of intellectual property and the protection of children have been mentioned in the same sentence, and longer still since anyone has advocated for equivalent countermeasures.

That could mean that the protection of intellectual property is getting ahead of itself but without similarly huge financial lobbying power, it’s more likely to reflect child protection falling behind.


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