ACE now reports on developments every few days, but that barely scratches the surface. Official announcements represent just a fraction of its work and behind the scenes, an endless stream of sites, services, and related entities are shutting down under ACE pressure every week.
Producing articles on them all isn’t feasible but when ACE announced that United Media had joined the coalition this week, it stood out as something worthy of more detailed reporting.
United Media: No Stranger to Piracy
United Group BV began life in 2000 as a small cable company. Today, the Netherlands/Luxembourg corporation boasts revenues of over €2.43 billion.
As part of the United Group, United Media is the leading media company in Southeast Europe, broadcasting around 50 TV channels across several platforms, including the selection below.
Nova (Greece) and Nova (Bulgaria) are also part of the United Group, offering channels that, in common with those broadcast by United Media, are regular inhabitants of pirate IPTV playlists worldwide.
According to ACE, an estimated 750,000 subscribers of illegal IPTV services in Greece is just one of the problems faced by United Media. ACE reports that one streaming site received more than two million visits in the three months before it was shut down, but how it gained so much traction is unclear.
Greece has an aggressive ISP blocking scheme that currently spans more than 600 domain names and more than 600 IP addresses, so running up two million visits in a three-month period shows that blockades might not be a perfect solution.
The blocked domains below are all attributable to complaints filed by Nova, but this is just a small selection from a much bigger list handled by ISPs in Greece.
In Monday’s announcement, Charles Rivkin, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association and Chairman of ACE, welcomed United Media to the “rapidly growing” ACE coalition.
“With each new member, ACE’s network grows stronger and better equipped to eradicate piracy and protect the creative economy,” Rivkin said.
While it’s undoubtedly an important step, United Media has been rubbing shoulders with ACE members and affiliated anti-piracy groups for quite some time.
United Media Joined AAPA in 2018
In 2018, United Media joined the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA) which counts Sky, Discovery, Viaccess, Vodafone, Bein Sports Canal+, Premier League, LaLiga and Liberty Global among its member members. Top-tier anti-piracy specialists Nagra and Irdeto are part of the same group but AAPA membership offers something else too – assistance from powerful law enforcement agencies including Interpol and Europol.
United Media’s deal with Friend MTS aimed to protect its flagship channels, including Sport Klub 1, Sport Klub 2, Sport Klub 3, TOP, Grand, N1, and Cinemania. The deal included fingerprint-based automatic content recognition, as well as subscriber-level identification, which aims to pinpoint the source of illegally streamed content.
Whether this partnership was responsible for what came next is unclear.
“Latest Detection Methods” Led to Arrests in Serbia
In 2019, police in Serbia reported the arrest of two men aged 40 and 31. They were charged with criminal copyright infringement offenses in connection with movies and TV shows made available via filmovi24h.com and serije.online. Police seized computer equipment and reportedly found evidence of financial transactions.
United Media was behind the complaint and welcomed the involvement of the Serbian government in internet piracy cases. According to news outlet N1 TV, itself part of United Media, the company had used “the latest detection methods to protect its content” and was continuing work with police to track down similar targets.
A month later, United Media was behind an operation against the suspected operator of several pirate sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Officers from the High-Tech Crime Department of the Criminal Police Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs seized equipment and took a man in for questioning.
United Media-affiliated news outlets unofficially named andrija-i-andjelka.com, filmovitica.com, serijehaha.com, serije.co, filmovi.ws, praveserije.com and serijefilmovi.com, as the sites targeted.
ACE Has Experience in Key Areas
Two years on from these operations, ACE executed a successful cease and desist action near Belgrade, Serbia. The target was the operator of Premiumcccam, a card-sharing and IPTV subscription service providing access to more than 6,000 TV channels, 3,000 movies and 16,500 TV shows owned by ACE members Sky, Viacom Media, and Canal+.
It’s likely that United Media indirectly benefited from this operation but as a fully signed-up member, the company will be in a position to encourage further action against targets across its key markets – Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Greece and Bulgaria.
“United Media’s strategic determinant is to create quality and attractive content. We invest in production, people, technology, we believe in our ideas, and it is our duty to do everything in our power to ensure copyright and legal operations of the entire market,” says United Media CEO Aleksandra Subotić.
“We believe that ACE is the perfect partner in this mission, and we are looking forward to working together. We are confident that we will strengthen the creative economy with our joint efforts.”
ACE now has 43 members but notes that in the coming weeks, even more media companies will join the coalition.