M&E Daily

MPAA Exec: How ACE is Acing Digital Pirates

Piracy continues to present a major problem for media and entertainment companies and it’s important that organizations work together in a coordinated effort to fight it globally, according to Karen Thorland, SVP and deputy general counsel, Global Content Protection Legal, for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The threat of piracy is “always changing,” she said during an afternoon session called “Addressing Online Piracy Together via the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE)” at the annual Content Protection Summit, presented by the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA).

That’s why one important thing about ACE is that its members include several companies that are “at the forefront” of “innovation” in “offering digital content in new ways” to consumers, she said.

Since the launch of ACE in the summer of 2017, this global coalition has dedicated itself to protecting the legal market and reducing online piracy globally.

During the Summit session, Thorland provided an overview of ACE and some of its successes to date, including the civil case it fought against TickBox TV, a seller of piracy devices.

The rise of digital piracy was caused in large part by “outdated distribution models” and the fact that consumers weren’t getting the content they wanted, when they wanted it, on the devices they wanted it, and at the pricing they wanted it, she noted. But that’s no longer the case as the number of alternative video platforms has risen, she said.

ACE members worked together on developing the group’s priorities, she said, telling the Summit: “Our top priorities are standalone pirate sites and services, and … what we’re mostly focused on are the very consumer-friendly sites and services that may have the same look and feel as the legitimate sites and that have large global viewerships often.” But she said: “We also care about standalone services that are particularly popular in one region.”

Its other top priorities are fighting the “illicit streaming device and app ecosystem,” as well infringing IPTV Kodi boxes and subscription services, she said. One major problem with the devices that have been sold by TickBox and others is that they are plug-and-play and so “consumer friendly” that “it’s not just that our parents can use it — it’s that our grandparents can use it.”

The TickBox TV case was the first of three U.S. suits that ACE filed against companies in that space, she noted, calling TickBox “truly bad players” who encouraged infringement of copyrighted content and sold about 50,000 devices at $89 each, making “millions” of dollars in the process before agreeing to pay a $25 million judgment and abiding by a permanent injunction against its infringing software to settle the dispute.

TickBox is “no longer a problem for us,” Thorland said. ACE then sued IPTV device seller Dragon Box, and that case is “still ongoing,” she said.

ACE also sued IPTV service Set TV in April, she pointed out, adding: “These guys have a long criminal history. We’re still negotiating with them. But the good news is that the service is already offline.” There are also cases outside the U.S., she said.

One problem has been that the infringing devices have often been sold on legitimate web sites, including those of Alibaba, Amazon and eBay, she said, adding ACE reached out to those sellers to discuss the issue. Those talks led to policy changes at those companies, she told the Summit, noting that although you can still find infringing devices online, there aren’t as many on legitimate sites as there had been. ACE continues to look out for new infringers, she noted.

ACE membership today includes 30 companies – mainly scripted movie and TV show creators and distributors, she pointed out. But she predicted: “Over time, we’ll see the members of ACE grow.”

Introducing Thorland, David Würgler, senior director of anti-piracy litigation at NAGRA, said: “We are strong believers in alliances” because they represent “a great way to fight piracy.” NAGRA was “pleased to see that MPAA has really taken the mantle in ant-piracy and created ACE and tried to bring everybody together in a great effort to fight piracy worldwide.”

The 2018 CDSA Content Protection Summit was presented by SafeStream, and sponsored by Edgescan, Microsoft Azure, LiveTiles, Aspera, Amazon Web Services, Convergent Risks, Dolby, Illumio, NAGRA, EIDR, the Trusted Partner Network (TPN), Videocites, Human-i-t, Telesoft and Bob Gold and Associates and is produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) in association with CDSA, the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Smart Content Council and Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH).