There is little doubt that video and music streaming services have taken the Internet by storm over the past decade.
An entire “on-demand” generation is growing up, with the streaming business model now generating billions of dollars in revenue.
Competing With Piracy
This growth was spurred on by piracy. When Netflix first launched its streaming services, the company openly positioned itself as a piracy competitor. And indeed, in the early years, many casual pirates were drawn to streaming platforms.
In recent years, this early selling point has been pushed into the background. With the launch of many more streaming services targeting the same audience, attractively broad content selections have given way to exclusive releases in a bid to lure customers.
The video streaming wars have reached a point where many people can no longer afford to pay for everything they want to see. Ironically, this drives them back to illegal options such as pirate sites and platforms where hacked accounts are listed for sale.
Streaming Service Reseller Faces Prison
These ‘hacked’ accounts, which belong to third-party customers, are sold through a wide variety of sites. Many people fall for these cheap offers without asking questions. The resellers, however, are not so innocent.
This week, the Danish National Unit for Special Crime (NSK) announced that a 29-year-old man from Odense has been charged with illegally reselling 500,000 leaked login credentials and now faces a potential prison sentence.
A subsection of these accounts are logins for streaming services including HBO Max, Paramount+ and Viaplay. These accounts were sold through a dedicated website at a fraction of the official price.
According to Brian Kaas Borgstrøm, Deputy prosecutor at NSK, the accounts on sale were likely obtained through data leaks.
“It is our opinion that the defendant has used a data leak to obtain the login information of random paying customers at a number of popular streaming services and then sold the information both collectively and individually. This has given buyers the opportunity to abuse the accounts of real customers.”
This doesn’t mean that the mentioned streaming services were compromised. People often use the same credentials across various sites, so hackers can use third-party leaks to hijack streaming accounts.
Not an Incident
The Danish Rights Alliance is pleased with the police action and notes that this isn’t the first time that someone has been caught reselling login credentials.
In July, a 31-year-old man from North Jutland was arrested for a similar offense. He is believed to be part of a bigger group that, in addition to hacked logins, also sold pirate IPTV subscriptions.
“Cases like this help to make visible that criminals are constantly developing new models to illegally make content available for their own profit – regardless of the fact that their crime goes beyond unsuspecting people,” says Rights Alliance Director Maria Fredenslund.
Major Streaming Services Unite
These types of criminals are able to run their profitable businesses because consumers are eager to save on streaming subscription costs. These types of enforcement actions may deter some criminals, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
Interestingly, several of the largest streaming services including Netflix, HBO, and Disney launched a new coalition yesterday that has “affordability” high on the agenda.
The “Streaming Innovation Alliance” (SIA) conducted a detailed survey which suggests that more than half of all consumers believe that streaming services are too expensive, while 75% indicate that costs are highly important.
This sentiment explains why some consumers resort to illegal options such as piracy and cheap hacked accounts.
Unfortunately, however, the Alliance informs TorrentFreak that it’s not their goal to make services cheaper. Instead, it’s an effort to push back against taxes and costly regulations that could make the services even more expensive.
Affordability as a piracy driver is not on the agenda yet. That’s a shame perhaps, as the Alliance could be a great way to find creative solutions to make progress on the cost front in other ways.