Pirate IPTV providers and streaming websites offering discounted or even free access to live sports broadcasts are controversial worldwide.
Rightsholders say these illegal platforms threaten their business and need to be brought under control. In the European Union, pressure has been building on the European Commission to urgently address the problem, via new legislation if necessary, but responses thus far have left rightsholders underwhelmed.
Last October, over 100 rightsholders and organizations, including the MPA, UEFA, Premier League, beIN, LaLiga, Serie A, Sky, and BT Sport, told the European Commission time was running out. Three weeks later the EC rejected demands for legislative instruments or European-wide regulation but promised to come up with a recommendation on mitigation measures under existing law.
Following public submissions that mostly underlined rightsholders’ claims that existing law is inadequate, the EC began to prepare its recommendation for combating piracy. A draft leaked to the media last month revealed that rightsholders will be expected to wait for another three years while the situation is monitored for change.
Faced with the prospect of no legislative action until 2026, rightsholders vented their disappointment via the Live Content Coalition, well in advance of the recommendation’s official publication.
Two Dozen MEPs Issue Demands at the Highest Level
The Association of Commercial Television and Video on Demand Services in Europe (ACT) is leading the campaign for legislative change on behalf of its members, some of which are multi-billion dollar businesses in their own right.
This morning, ACT made public a letter sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Dated April 28, 2023, it references the EC’s recommendation due to be published this week or, more accurately, the draft leaked to the media last month.
One Year Monitoring Period
Signed by 24 Members of the European Parliament, the letter is a follow-up to correspondence in March that called on the the Commission to “act decisively, efficiently and with the utmost priority against those who drain our creative economies.” Once again, a refusal to address the problem with urgent legislation is highlighted as a major concern.
“As previously outlined, we, together with many of our colleagues remain disappointed that the European Commission proposed a Recommendation despite unambiguous requests from the European Parliament for a legislative instrument,” the MEPs write.
“The only encouragement this house received from the European Commission can be found in the response from October 2022 which recognises that this issue should be tackled with urgency allowing for a solid and transparent monitoring system.”
The MEPs say they support the implementation of a monitoring period since producing performance data will incentivize “all the players in scope of the Recommendation” to act. What they cannot accept is that the suggested monitoring period, at least according to the leaked draft, is 36 months in duration.
“We took note from the press that a current draft of the Recommendation envisages a three-year review period. Such a lengthy timeframe will only benefit malicious actors to the detriment of our European creative and sports industries,” the MEPs warn.
“We strongly encourage the European Commission’s services under your authority to ensure that the final Recommendation – to be released in early May – includes a review period that is not longer than one year from publication.”
MEPs Ask EC President to Keep Promises
When the European Commission published its work program last October, it gave assurances that should the recommendation not generate “the desired effects in a timely manner,” further steps would be taken, “including by proposing new EU legislation addressing this significant problem.”
It’s unclear whether the leaked draft repeated or omitted that assurance but the MEPs insist that, for the avoidance of doubt, it needs to appear in the recommendation due for publication this week.
“Otherwise, our previous exchanges would be contradicted, Madam President, and the European Commission would demonstrate a lack of resolve in defending the rule of law in the European Union and delivering on the Commission’s commitment to ensure that what is illegal offline is illegal online,” the letter concludes.
The letter sent to EC President Ursula von der Leyen can be found here (pdf)