Media Sowed Piracy Panic For Years, Their VPN Ads Now Panic Hollywood

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For years, tabloid media outlets in the UK have published outrageous scare stories about Kodi, piracy apps, and pirate IPTV. Misinformation and even flat-out lies designed to outrage and provoke attracted millions of people with clickbait headlines. A Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group now cites media misinformation as a major piracy threat in UK. Sadly, for none of the reasons above.

RipperDuring international holidays, news in a tight niche like ours can completely dry up, so when an exciting headline suddenly appears after 14 hours at a desk, things aren’t so bad after all.

Sadly, ‘exciting’ headlines that began appearing around 2017 didn’t help.

Dramatic news articles in UK tabloids often plagiarized articles published by TorrentFreak. But worse than that, many featured massive exaggerations that insulted even basic common sense, with irrelevant bits of information tacked on for SEO purposes.

Over time the trend went in a different direction. When Kodi addons became the new piracy bogeyman, the tabloids gorged on the drama. Headlines containing phrases such as FREE STREAMING WARNING and NEW KODI THREAT appeared alongside JAILED and POLICE in almost unlimited quantities, regardless of what actually happened.

When the tabloids started spreading complete nonsense about a change in UK law, people with influence could’ve helped put that right. We certainly tried, but it only made things worse.

After giving Android streaming apps the same treatment, recent claims in the media that ‘illegal streaming detector cars‘ have been deployed on the streets of Britain are depressing. They also highlight a continuing theme.

Every instance of outrageous ‘reporting’ sends a message of danger to the general public, warning that something terrible will happen if they aren’t careful. Curiously, misinformation never leans in a direction that isn’t beneficial to the entertainment industries. At least until now.

Piracy: A Problem Shared

The Industry Trust For IP is part of the British Association for Screen Entertainment. Sony, Universal, Disney, and Warner are listed as member companies, but its scope is much broader than that.


In a new Industry Trust For IP report, the UK’s piracy problems are outlined once again. In broad terms, the report contains familiar talking points but with a fresh approach. ‘Taking a Whole Society Approach to Infringement in the UK’ suggests that if everyone makes a contribution, a big problem becomes much more manageable.

“We have created this infringement overview to shed light on the ways in which we can make sizeable change to the current state of infringement through understanding, collaboration and actions,” it reads.

“It suggests a fully supportive policy framework, more consistent use of technological measures and a more responsible media environment, all underpinned by proven education and enforcement that can match the growing scale of the threat and will encourage audiences to value and support creative endeavors.”

Having waited six or so years for people with real influence to do something meaningful to prevent industry and legal matters being deliberately distorted in the press, the media reference came as a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, a different problem is considered much more of a priority than factual reporting.

Irresponsible Articles

Listed as one of five “Key Problems” facing the UK and presented in the report under the heading Media Misinformation, the explanation reads as follows:

A growing number of mainstream news articles and film blogs are offering consumers suggestions for how they can seek out content that they may not have permission to view.

Creating clickbait “where can I watch X?” headlines, advocating internet search for unauthorized access, and advising on how to circumnavigate permissions with VPNs all serve to devalue the importance of copyright more broadly and may introduce a gateway to other forms of piracy, according to research.

While the language dances around the topic, it’s fairly obvious what the report is driving at. Since no regular consumer has permission to view or obtain content from a pirate source, the phrase “may not have permission to view” seems to introduce a variable known as ‘licensing’.

The next paragraph seems to reinforce that with the phrase, “advising on how to circumnavigate permissions with VPNs.” Nobody can ‘circumnavigate permissions’ to view pirated content, so this is about articles that promote the use of VPNs to access legal streaming services from unlicensed locations.

The report doesn’t call out publications by name but does explain how to find them. A search for ‘where can I watch’ and ‘VPN’ (no film titled needed) returned this mainstream article. There’s no suggestion this particular article is considered offensive by the authors of the report, but it fits the criteria based on search parameters and content.


The whole article makes for interesting reading and, of course, members of the public will reasonably argue that since they have paid for Netflix in the UK, what’s the big deal? We’ll leave that question open, at least for today.

A more interesting example can be found in the section that reads, “The best streaming VPN can unlock thousands of new episodes of hit TV shows, live Premier League fixtures, and blockbuster movies unavailable to stream in your country.”

Articles with a similar theme can be found on The Mirror (1,2), The Sun (1) and many, many others. They’re certainly not uncommon and even appear in pro-Hollywood publications.

The Hollywood Reporter (1,2) does highlight some legal caveats but according to the Industry Trust report, even this could “serve to devalue the importance of copyright” and “introduce a gateway to other forms of piracy” – at least according to research.

So what should the media do?

“Media could ensure that reporting about ways to watch respects the value of IP and always directs audiences to legal routes,” the recommendation begins.

“Journalists and bloggers could take greater accountability for how they promote access to creative content, ensuring that advice on ways to watch respects the value of copyright and promotes legal routes. They should be mindful that endorsing internet search and VPN use for unauthorized access could create gateways to other forms of piracy.”

These suggestions are completely reasonable but let’s turn this around. When describing how easy and straightforward piracy has become in the UK, the report uses this statement: Convenience and ease of access fuels engagement.

If that philosophy was applied to legal content instead, there would be no need for anyone to circumvent anything.

It’s a “whole society approach to infringement” and a solution, all in one.

The full report is available from The Industry Trust

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