Over the past several years, streaming app Mobdro grew to become one of the most significant players in the piracy scene.
As one of the newer breeds of standalone piracy apps, Mobdro grew alongside the likes of Popcorn Time, Showbox and Terrarium TV. With the provision of live TV, sports channels and 24/7 content presented in an easy-to-use interface, Mobdro became a fan-favorite.
In February, however, it became clear that the video streaming tool was suffering serious problems.
Alongside reports that Mobdro was no longer working, there was speculation that Mobdro may have been subjected to law enforcement action. No official confirmation arrived to back up these claims but following a new announcement from Eurojust (European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation), it is clear that the authorities were involved in the app’s demise.
Major Entertainment Companies File Complaints
According to Eurojust, investigations into Mobdro began back in 2018 following complaints from the Spanish Professional Football League (La Liga), the Premier League, and the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment. The agency says that the main suspect behind Mobdro “used primary domains and servers” to illegally connect to legally operating streaming services, content from which was presented in the Mobdro app.
Eurojust further reports that 43 million users worldwide have downloaded Mobdro to watch unlicensed content, leading to estimated profits of “at least” five million euros for its operators. The two-year investigation is said to have uncovered additional illegal streaming activities too.
Co-ordinated ‘Day of Action’
While the precise date is not revealed by the agency, Eurojust said it recently coordinated an “action day” against Mobdro. This led to the search of four locations and removed the possibility for Mobdro “to be uploaded” via platforms and servers in Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic.
While the terminology deployed in the news bulletin is somewhat confusing (Mobdro itself can be uploaded easily from anywhere), perhaps the most important issue relates to detentions. One suspect was arrested by Spanish authorities and three others were reportedly taken in for questioning in Spain and Andorra.
European Investigation Orders involving Portugal and the Czech Republic were executed with the assistance of Eurojust, which also helped with a request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) from Andorra.
“Europol provided analytical support to the operation, which was carried out on the ground in Spain by Investigative Court nº 12 of Valencia and the National Police Corps,” a Eurojust statement adds.
“In Portugal, the Department of Criminal Investigation and Prosecution of Lisbon and the Lisbon Judiciary Police Directorate supported the joint action day, with the assistance of the Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office of Prague and the District Directorate of Police for Prague IV, Department of Analytics and Cybercrime.”
The Investigative Judge of the Specialised Investigation Section number 2 of Andorra and the General Prosecutor Office of Andorra also provided assistance.
Given its all-in-one nature and range of content, in the short-term Mobdro will be difficult to replace, particularly given the size of its userbase. However, it may well be that Mobdro’s strengths played a key part in its own downfall. Stepping on the toes of the Premier League, La Liga, and the members of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (all at once), was never likely to end well.
While Mobdro has been under investigation since 2018, just under two years ago the app featured in a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance alongside claims that users of the app were effectively becoming part of a proxy network. The claim wasn’t a surprise to anyone that had bothered to read Mobdro’s EULA.
Mobdro operated an ad-supported model, with users who preferred not to see ads given an option to become peers within the Luminati network. This meant that their bandwidth and IP addresses could be legally used by Luminati customers for their chosen Internet activities.
Quite how many understood the implications of their choice to opt for no ads is unclear but it seems likely that relatively few bothered to read Mobdro’s EULA in full.
While it remains to be seen how the case will progress in Spain, Eurojust is clear that Mobdro made a lot of money. The detail and post mortem of how that revenue was generated and from where will likely prove an interesting topic of conversation in the months to come.