Casbaa lays out framework to curb streaming devices

The pay-TV trade body announced the formation of a coalition of content distributors to crack down on 'syndicates' selling illegal streaming devices.

Casbaa lays out framework to curb streaming devices

Pay-TV trade body Casbaa has announced the formation of an anti-piracy coalition ahead of its convention in early November. The effort aims to target "criminal syndicates" selling illicit streaming devices in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Coalition Against Piracy (CAP) includes local and international content distributors: beIN Sports, CASBAA, The Walt Disney Company, Fox Networks Group, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, Media Partners Asia, National Basketball Association, PCCW Media, Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia, True Visions, TV5MONDE, and Viacom International Media Networks.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific, John Medeiros, chief policy officer at Casbaa, explained that the coalition intends to pursue criminal enforcement and promote legislation against retailers of the devices, in addition to raising consumer awareness on the issue. Neil Gane, IP enforcement expert and a former member of the Hong Kong Police force, has been appointed as the general manager of the coalition.

Often dubbed “Piracy 3.0” after peer-to-peer services and illegal online streaming sites such as Putlocker and 123Movies, streaming devices are set-top boxes that allow for content to be streamed over broadband connections.

“Obviously it’s not possible to say that we are going to do one thing in every country, because the legal framework and market situation of piracy varies from one country to another,” said Medeiros. “In many of these markets, such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan, there is already well-developed broadband infrastructure and substantial sales of these boxes. But in others like Indonesia and Philippines, the goal is to prevent the piracy economy from growing further.”

While the set-top boxes are not exactly illegal in and of themselves, Medeiros pointed out that devices loaded with piracy software and apps should fall under copyright-infringement legislation.

“Nobody should use this excuse of it being vague or grey," he said. "From our perspective, this is not at all grey.”

The coalition intends to work with payment operators such as Visa and Mastercard as well as ecommerce sites such as Amazon and Taobao to stop transactions for the streaming devices, said Medeiros. Entertainment site Variety reports that Facebook has banned users from selling the streaming devices on its site under its commerce policy. Medeiros further added that the coalition is not an advertising-focused initiative, as the financial flow of the piracy activity comes from equipment sales and subscriptions that are sold together with some of the boxes.

“One of the strengths [of CAP] is that besides the foreign content providers, we are also bringing in the local OTT platforms to make sure that the governments understand that piracy is something that is damaging the local economy,” said Medeiros. He stressed that the smaller OTT players would be most hurt from streaming devices-related piracy since they are operating in the same space.

Asked about the outlook for pay TV in general, Medeiros acknowledged that its future is online, but argued that future will not come too soon. While he does not regard streaming sites such as Netflix and iflix as competitors for pay TV, he said the future of TV is online. "Pay-TV is part of the movement, but that does not mean the whole world is going to be there anytime soon because you are not moving online if you are still in secondary cities,” he said.

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