While all kinds of measures are promoted as the best way to deal with pirate streaming sites and unlicensed IPTV services, one of the best long-term strategies is to offer legal content on a convenient platform at a fair price.
Like all fights against piracy, failing in any area can lead to issues. Persistent price increases, platform exclusives, and the need to subscribe to multiple platforms to get an acceptable content library can put customers off, meaning that pirate sites again find the oxygen they need to survive.
Last August, producer and film investor Moshe Edery co-founded Screen iL, an international TV streaming platform aimed at Israelis living abroad.
“Leave the pirates and come to the Zionists,” Edery said, noting that everything available on Israeli TV networks would be available on his new platform. “By using our Screen iL, you ensure that the Israelis who create this content will be compensated, not some pirate company.”
Of course, not everyone was convinced. Screen iL costs $219.99 for an annual subscription whereas its pirate competitors are often free. Some offer an enhanced experience in return for a donation while others in the pirate IPTV space have subscription rates far lower than Screen iL. This is clearly a problem for Edery who, as part of a broader legal strategy, is putting payment processors on notice.
Mastercard, Visa and American Express Put On Notice
In a joint statement published in The Jerusalem Post, Screen iL plus content companies United King Films, Reshet, Keshet, RGE and Noga Communications, puts Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Isracard on notice. Do something about your support for pirate sites, they warn, or expect us to come after you.
“The credit card companies cannot hide behind the claim of not knowing, not hearing or not realizing that the pirate websites are involved in criminal copyright violation and money laundering activities,” the statement reads.
“It is a public activity, conducted openly throughout the Internet and subject of many public legal proceedings in Israel and abroad, as well as multiple items in the media, clarifying that it comprises a criminal and illegal activity.”
Allegations that Mastercard and Visa support pirate services are certainly nothing new. In Europe, rightsholders indicate that more must be done to prevent pirate sites from using payment processors to generate revenue but, thus far, direct legal threats have been few and far between.
Screen iL’s Targets Include a Major Player
According to Screen iL and its partners, the pirate services of most concern are Israel-tv.com, Israel.tv and Sdarot.tv. They say that the Motion Picture Association reported these sites to London police, presumably the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). In addition, the platforms were also reported to the FBI and the Department of Justice over copyright violations and money laundering.
What the statement doesn’t reveal is that all three of these platforms are also subject to civil litigation in the United States. In November 2021, Screen iL and partners sued Israel-tv.com (pdf), Israel.tv (pdf), and Sdarot.tv, demanding statutory copyright damages of $150,000 for every infringed work.
Two Successes, One Big Failure
In common with many similar lawsuits against pirate sites, none of the defendants have shown up to defend their cases. However, Israel-tv.com and Israel.tv (perhaps in response to the lawsuits) appear to have shut themselves down. Neither service is accessible from the domains listed in the complaints, something which cannot be said of the third site in Screen iL’s list.
Sdarot.tv is Israel’s most popular pirate streaming site. Over the last three months its traffic has ranged between 5.8 million and 6.9 million visits per month. The US lawsuit appears to have had little effect on its operations, something that actions in Israel also failed to achieve.
The lawsuits filed in the US by Screen iL and partners note that complaints in Israel resulted in court orders that prevent the sites being hosted by ISPs in Israel. Of course, that is easily circumvented, as demonstrated by Sdarot’s ability to service millions of basic users (and subscribers) every month.
That probably explains why Edery is now warning Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Isracard that they will be targeted next, if they fail to prevent Sdarot from doing business with them. Whether that shot across the bows will have any effect remains to be seen but many rightsholders will be watching to see if the companies react.