There are all kinds of strategies aimed at curtailing piracy but in the end it is only a change in human behavior that can really make a difference. Tempting people to do the ‘right thing’ by offering cool services is a nice one but there are other options available.
Writing in the Huffington Post this week, Liz Bales, CEO of The Industry Trust for IP Awareness, asked parents if they were aware of the dangers posed by piracy-enabled set-top boxes – aka Kodi devices with third-party addons.
“Unauthorised apps installed on the boxes and sticks ‘scrape’ content from illegal file-sharing sites, cyber-lockers and streaming sites to download and stream infringing film, TV and sports content,” Bales said.
“In doing so, they expose users to many of the security and safety risks traditionally associated with pirate websites, but deliver these through a much more trusted and social family viewing medium – the television.”
Bales then went on to cite statistics from a new study that reportedly found that 10% of people engaging in this kind of piracy have been exposed to either age-inappropriate or adult content.
TF contacted The Industry Trust hoping to get a look at the full report, but they were only prepared to share a small set of figures due to an exclusivity deal with another publication.
Nevertheless, if we take Bales’ reporting at face value, we still have room for meaningful discussion.
At the core of the issue appears to be pirate services’ lack of adherence to the British Board of Film Classification’s age ratings system when offering up content. For example, films that are only suitable for teenagers can be available to younger children while 18+ content isn’t fenced off from either group.
“What’s most concerning in the research is the tendency for families to engage in Digital TV Piracy, usually through their trusted family TV and, more often than not, leaving children to use the technology on their own,” Bales continued.
“In fact, more than three quarters (79%) of parents who have participated in Digital TV Piracy report that their children are allowed to access unauthorised content unattended, with 7% saying they have actually installed the technology in their children’s bedrooms.”
To the casual reader, this might sound like an apocalypse waiting to happen. Kids, sitting alone in their rooms, huddled around dangerous technology somehow intent on polluting their young minds with violent filth.
To others, who understand a little bit more about the technology at play here, Welcome to the Internet.
The devices featured in the survey are Android-type mini computers with access to the Internet – nothing more, nothing less. Kids have computers already, whether they come in desktop, tablet, or mobile phone form. No matter which device we use to access it, the Internet as a whole does not know the age of the person browsing its pages.
Perhaps what we should be concentrating on here is parents’ role in deciding what content children should have access to, no matter how it’s delivered. Let’s not forget, since they were almost certainly the people to buy the Kodi stick and plug it into their kids’ TV in the first place, parents already know what these devices can do.
Equally, they also know what the Internet as a whole serves up on a daily basis. If the Kodi stick needs parental guidance controls, so does the Internet, period. Parents should perhaps think about this problem as a whole, not on a per device basis.
Fortunately, help is at hand. TVaddons, one of the world’s largest repositories of third-party Kodi addons, has already considered that parents might want to restrict their kids’ access to inappropriate content.
To that end they published a guide some time ago, which gives concerned adults the ability to lock down any addons they like with a secret code.
In closing, Bales points to a resource published by FindAnyFilm, a site that enables consumers to find places where they can obtain legitimate content. It’s a good service that many people find useful. It too mentions a new set-top box study, almost certainly the one commissioned by the Industry Trust.
In addition, FindAnyFilm offers up some advice of its own, including getting content from legitimate ‘safe’ sources such as the iPlayer. While the rest of the advice is mostly reasonable too, the site does make one last-ditch effort to scare parents away from using TV apps that aren’t available from places such as Google Play or Samsung and LG’s stores.
“Never install apps from an unofficial source,” FindAnyFilm warns. “Doing so could put your TV at risk and could void your manufacturer’s warranty.”
Protecting children and indeed hardware from harm is always welcome, but it’s not difficult to read between the lines here. Kodi sticks with third-party addons are now considered a major threat to IP holders, so diminishing their attractiveness in the eyes of the general public is now a priority.
We look forward to reading the full report, whenever it becomes available.
Update: An earlier version of this piece noted that the iPlayer only has a tick box to access age-restricted content. It does in fact have a code option if parents set it up in advance