Mastercard and Visa Under Pressure for ‘Enabling’ IPTV Piracy

The Irdeto anti-piracy team has revealed new data which show how pirate IPTV services rely on reputable payment processors to earn money. Payment services such as Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal are piracy enablers, Irdeto says, suggesting that media companies should threaten repercussions if the status quo remains.

With help from dedicated hardware boxes, live streaming piracy has seen a massive user growth in recent years.

While there are hundreds of free live streaming sites and tools, there’s also a huge market for paid pirate services, which charge a fraction of the cost of their legal counterparts.

One company that has kept a close eye on these developments is Irdeto. The anti-piracy outfit has assisted copyright holders and law enforcement on several occasions and has helped bring down some of the largest offenders.

However, the problem isn’t going away, not even when criminal law enforcement gets involved. One of the problems is that it’s relatively easy for pirate IPTV providers to operate in the open, helped by reputable payment processors such as Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.

This is one of the main conclusions of research published by Irdeto this week.

Irdeto, which works with prominent clients including Comcast, Foxtel, ITV, and Maxdome, looked at 400 pirate IPTV streaming supplier sites. They found that the majority of these, 76 percent, openly advertise their payment options. Visa and Mastercard were most mentioned, followed by PayPal.

“What this data confirms is that pirates depend heavily on leading payment platforms to help them gather subscription and pay per view revenue,” Mark Mulready,
Irdeto’s VP of Cybersecurity Services, notes.

The data released by Irdeto is presented in a somewhat confusing pie chart. This shows that Visa and Mastercard each account for 21 percent of all payment methods advertised. PayPal is listed at 9 percent and cryptocurrencies are far less popular, coming in at just 4 percent.

Since IPTV providers offer multiple payments options, the percentage of sites that use each of these services is probably much higher, but unfortunately, Irdeto doesn’t have this information available for us.

Payment methods (Irdeto)

Irdeto’s research comes with a rather strong message. The company suggests that media companies, who often use the same payment services, might want to reconsider who they do business with.

“Surely, it’s time for the payment platforms to support legitimate media organizations by conducting better due diligence and stopping support for these pirate IPTV streaming sites?” Mulready writes.

At the moment, payment processors have few incentives to drop pirate IPTV clients, Irdeto notes, but when media companies threaten to cut their ties with these companies, they may take action.

“If media organizations threaten to vote with their feet against payment platforms that enable piracy, it’ll be fascinating to see who blinks first,” Mulready concludes.

Piracy related pressure on payment providers is nothing new. A few years ago there were similar calls urging the same companies to stop doing business with rogue cyberlockers. This eventually paid off, as more and more services were cut off.

Whether public threats are a good tactic is up for debate though. We doubt that Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal are willing to team up with pirate IPTV services. Perhaps educating the compliance departments on these services may work just as well as issuing threats, or even better.

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