Telecoms Regulator Gives Google a Week to Join IPTV Piracy Fight

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As local pay TV companies complain that pirate IPTV providers are using VPNs and public DNS services to evade blocking measures, Brazil's telecoms regulator wants cooperation from Big Tech. Referencing a one-week deadline and potential legal action to force compliance, an Anatel advisor spoke of "giants" being notified, one with a name that begins with a 'G'.

Bigtech-sAuthorities and rightsholders in Brazil say there will be no let up in their battle against all aspects of the illegal TV market. From pirate IPTV services and non-certified set-top boxes, to illegal streaming websites and pirate apps, all will face continued disruption.

Brazil’s National Film Agency (Ancine) and local telecoms regulator Anatel (National Telecommunications Agency) announced a new anti-piracy partnership earlier this year, with the latter championing blocking measures as a key tool for bringing piracy under control.

Technical Measures Play to Pirates’ Strengths

While rightsholders believe that blocking can be effective at reducing piracy rates, as a technical response it actually plays to the strengths of tech-savvy pirates. Where rightsholders’ currently hold an advantage is the general lack of technical ability at the mainstream consumer end of the market. No longer just geeks, many of today’s IPTV pirates fix cars, conduct plastic surgery, or handle tax affairs for a living. They watch TV to relax so anything that prevents that needs to be handled by someone else.

With that in mind, it was interesting to read comments from the Brazilian Association of Pay Television (ABTA) in a Teletime report published earlier this month. In response to IP address blocking deployed by the authorities, pirate set-top boxes now have VPN services built in or come ready configured to use public DNS services, rather than the poisoned ones provided by ISPs.

It’s unlikely this took ABTA by surprise. In the UK, where blocking is over a decade old and on some ISPs cannot be defeated by a simple change of DNS, it’s now fairly standard for pre-configured subscription IPTV boxes to arrive with a pre-configured VPN. This does nothing to make the very casual user more tech-savvy but does allow blocks to be easily circumvented by those who are.

Blocking the Unblockers

The problem in Brazil and elsewhere is that the companies requesting ISP blocking don’t like to see it being circumvented. ABTA legal director Jonas Antunes said that if VPN services and public DNS providers like Google fail to comply with Anatel’s blocking instructions, the government will have to address the issue.

“The main difficulty in combating piracy today is not in the telecommunications networks, but in a layer above,” Antunes told Teletime.

While that may indeed be part of the puzzle, ultimately the issue always returns to the internet. Following the realization that governments and rightsholders lack real control online, the usual response is to point fingers at powerful internet companies and demand that they find a solution.

During the first day of the PAYTV Forum in São Paulo earlier this week, Anatel’s Moisés Moreira kept that tradition alive.

“One of Them Starts With a G”

According to event sponsor Teletime, Moreira told the forum that there has been very little assistance from Big Tech when it comes to tackling the illegal distribution of content online.

“We want them [the big platforms] to help us block IPs. That’s what we need to be more successful,” Moreira said. “There are giants, I will not mention their names – one of them starts with G – that we have notified.”

It’s difficult to gauge how Google might react without knowing the specifics of the proposals and the implications for hundreds of unknown moving parts. Historically, it would’ve been a pretty safe bet for rightsholders to go home with absolutely nothing but attitudes do seem to be changing at Google.

Whether that includes immediate compliance with ultimatums is unknown, but history shows that compliance with any measure leads to further demands to comply with another.

“I have already determined a period of one week for them to manifest themselves and if that does not happen, we will escalate the enforcement, even judicialization by the agency. There’s nothing left to wait for, so we’re going to be more rigorous,” Moreira informed the forum.

Image credit: Mohamed_hassan/Pixabay


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