Delivered via TV, radio and the internet, public service announcements enlighten the masses on topics seemingly so complex, they’re only fully understood by the few. Even if that was the case, 30 seconds of theatrics followed by what amounts to a blind order may have worked 40 years ago; today, people expect more than that and when it comes to anti-piracy PSAs, magnitudes more.
For the last few years the global anti-piracy message hasn’t wavered for a moment. There’s no memorable slogan to recall, but the message couldn’t be clearer: If people pirate content, using IPTV services in particular, more likely than not they will become infected with malware, have their identities stolen, credit cards maxed-out, and/or bank accounts emptied.
It’s one of the strongest and most united messages ever sent, and with multiple and significant caveats, even has some basis in truth. It appears to have done little to suppress demand, however.
Whether events unfolding in South Korea will dampen local demand remains to be seen, but the narrative playing out on national news could hardly be worse for pirate sites.
Piracy and Illegal Gambling Start Sharing a Cell
Before the advent of various international schemes that prevent gambling companies from advertising on pirate sites or contain an abstention agreement, gambling ads and pirate site were commonly seen together.
In South Korea, the government is no fan of piracy, but it tolerates illegal gambling even less. Online gambling within South Korea is outlawed, and government control in the rest of the market effectively amounts to a lucrative monopoly. When pressure mounted on former local piracy site Noonoo TV, the existence of ads promoting illegal gambling on the site receive dozens of mentions in the media.
While Noonoo seems to be dead, the local piracy/gambling nexus is reportedly in full swing. With black market gambling reportedly worth up to $80 billion, national TV news channel KBS has run dozens of stories over the past couple of months, all with a common theme.
Enjoy the Movie, Stay For the Gambling
The story at the heart of the current controversy dates back to September; KBS published a video report (below, English translation via subtitle) in which the presenter explains (around the one-minute mark) that the channel’s reporters tested out an illegal streaming site offering Netflix content for free. When a reporter clicked on one of the ads, it led to a surprisingly open criminal who confirmed the channel’s suspicions, apparently with no hesitation.
“When I click on the advertising banner on the screen, I am taken directly to an online gambling site. On other illegal streaming sites, similar advertisements appear on the screen,” the presenter says.
“After checking them one by one, most of them were the same company. A reporter contacted the online gambling operator and asked if he had anything to do with the streaming site, and he answered ‘yes’. So, it appears that they are making money by offering free OTT services and luring users who are misled by them to gambling sites,”
Commenting on the allegations, police confirmed an investigation into the connections between gambling sites and pirate streaming portals, adding that accounts linked to five sites had been frozen, with two sites shut down.
“The problem with these illegal OTTs and the gambling sites connected to them,” the presenter adds, “is that even teenagers are exposed to them without protection.”
Teenage Gambling Addicts
How KBS identified and then obtained permission to interview school kids who used these sites isn’t clear. The channel disguised their voices and blurred out their faces, but there’s little to hide their naivety. One of the opening statements appears to show a lack of understanding, if not complete ignorance, of exactly the type of disclosure that can ruin people’s lives.
“Even though I was a minor, I signed up immediately after entering my name, date of birth, and phone number, and that’s how I started ‘gambling’,” a student revealed.
“I was trying to watch it for free, but a lot of windows appeared at the bottom and a window at the top,” added another.
“While watching a free movie on an illegal OTT site, I inadvertently saw an advertisement. I clicked and entered the gambling site,” the interviewer was told.
“At first, out of curiosity, I went to the gambling site. The money I sent later grew out of control, and I even resorted to private loans.”
The final horror story manages to sound even more miserable than the others.
“This year I earned about 10 million won [US7,600],” the student said. “I originally saved up the money by doing a part-time job. But my mother and her parents had to give luxury goods and gold, and I took all of the collateral, because the interest rates on the losses jumped 100% in three days.”
Video From Inside an Alleged Gambling/Pirate Site Operation
KBS News doesn’t reveal who provided the video, but it was allegedly recorded inside an office where a gambling operation was based. The channel says it shows both the gambling platform and the pirate site being operated from the same room, enough evidence for the channel to conclude direct links between pirate movies and TV shows, and illegal gambling.
“There are adult sites and drama-watching sites. Those are the ones that work best,” a company official explained.
“These days, [gambling] sites don’t work without kids.”