When online piracy first hit the masses with Napster, Limewire, and later torrent sites, it wasn’t really a concern for sports leagues.
Most sports fans want to see their favorite players or teams live, not a day later when they already know the result.
Over the past years, live-streaming piracy has caught up with traditional media piracy. Pretty much every significant sports event can now be seen for free, through streaming websites or dedicated pirate set-top boxes.
This means that sports leagues have also taken an interest in anti-piracy enforcement. This became apparent once again last week when the Sports Coalition, which represents MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and others, sent an overview of piracy threats to the US Trade Representative (USTR).
The submission is part of the annual Special 301 Review, where the USTR uses input from various stakeholders to make a list of countries that could do more to protect the copyright industry. According to the Sports Coalition, live-streaming is one of the threats that should be highlighted.
“Sports organizations, including Sports Coalition members, are heavily affected by live sports telecast piracy, including the unauthorized live retransmission of sports telecasts over the Internet,” the submission reads.
Live streaming piracy is a persistent problem, according to the sports leagues, but also a global one. It involves “bad actors” in a wide variety of countries, they note.
“Pirate services and those complicit with them (such as content distribution networks and hosting services) are believed to be located in many nations including the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.”
The six mentioned countries are the worst offenders, the Sports Coalition writes, urging the US Government to take appropriate action in response. The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia deserve priority, they say, due to the prevalence or severity of the piracy problem in these countries.
The sports leagues identify several “infringing services” in the Netherlands, which contribute to the streaming piracy problem.
These include sportshd.me, strikezone.co, wiz1.net, vip7stream.pw, livebar.ow, 9stream.pw, ucasterplayer.com, Quasi Networks, Severius Holding, Leaseweb, Server Hosting Pty, and SNEL, which either pirated or provided services contributing to the piracy of a material number of Sports Coalition game and event telecasts.
This overview includes dedicated streaming sites and services, but also general purpose hosting providers. Leaseweb is an example of the latter. While the company may indeed have bad apples among its clients, it has many legitimate customers as well.
We see the same pattern with other countries, where both dedicated streaming platforms as well as hosting companies are mentioned among the infringing services.
Saudi Arabia is an outlier in this regard. The Sports Coalition mentions that the country deserves a priority mention because of BeoutQ. This service operates as a commercial venture offering “pirate “sports broadcasts through dedicated boxes.
“During 2018, an Infringing Service, beoutQ, operating either in whole or in part in Saudi Arabia pirated Sports Coalition game and event telecasts via unauthorized IPTV streaming devices and the beoutQ.se website,” the Sports Coalition writes.
BeoutQ is a thorn in the side of many other rightsholders as well. It launched in 2017 and for more than a year, various parties have tried to stop the infringing activity.
The service is also mentioned in several other USTR submissions, including the one from Sky, which links it to ArabSat and the Saudi Arabian government.
“[T]he speed of proliferation of the illegal beoutQ service is particularly alarming, as is the evidence suggesting that the Riyadh based satellite operator, ArabSat, whose main shareholder is the Saudi Arabian government, provides satellite services to enable beoutQ’s distribution,” Sky writes.
Given the sheer volume of mentions, live-streaming piracy will likely end up in USTR’s 2019 Special 301 Review, which is expected to be released in a few weeks.