Online streaming

Will war against piracy ever be won?

I need a new phone. The battery drains faster than you can say pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.

Stuck on the road, with a dead phone, I thought I’d miss the World Cup round of 16 match between France and Argentina.

My friend, who was driving, coolly passed me his phone and said: “Nah, select from any of those links and you’ll be able to watch the match.”

After randomly selecting from the over 70 links, I found one that worked. It was a nerve-wracking experience watching what could very well be one of the most dramatic World Cup matches in history. I had to squint to watch the seven goals on a 5.5-inch screen. There is no justice in watching the beautiful game on something that small.

France edged Argentina 4-3, leaving Lionel Messi dumbfounded.

So was I but for a different reason.

It’s 2018. The authorities have restricted access to certain websites – from adult content to what the government of the day believes is ‘bad press’. However, one thing they have failed to look into is piracy.

Pirated DVDs are still sold at pasar malam at other public areas. You may wonder who buys DVDs these days but it seems the demand is still there. Piracy in Malaysia has been a nagging issue for over 20 years.

World leader in digital platform security Irdeto revealed Malaysia recorded the second largest share of content piracy in Southeast Asia at 17% for the first quarter of 2016.

The same company, had last year, said about 2.9 million people saw the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight on 239 illegal streams.

Anti-piracy campaigns have been carried out for years but with little success.
Newly minted Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo has plenty on his dish (no pun intended) – from resolving .my glitches, restructuring the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) to entertaining demands of television viewers on Twitter, including those tired of the repeated dramas and hoping for more cartoons on RTM.

That’s a mess Gobind would be able to sort out. Unlike his predecessor, he wouldn’t be too preoccupied blogging (or rather defending) his boss.

However, Gobind may find it tough tackling piracy.

A legal eagle himself, Gobind is well-versed with the laws, and the loopholes surrounding the act of streaming online.

Gobind Singh Deo
Gobind will have an uphill battle tackling piracy.

I’m sure he realises that the Copyright Act 1987 needs to be updated as it lacks clear provisions to deal with infringements due to digital copyright. His ministry needs to listen to digital experts.

There are valid complaints by viewers who are bored with repeated shows. Also, when streaming is pretty much free, they don’t see the need to commit to a monthly plan.

Entertainment is expensive business and it’s difficult to appease consumers who want the best but at almost no cost.

But many don’t realise how piracy is hurting the government’s coffers. It was reported in May last year that Malaysia lost an estimated RM1.05 billion in revenue due to online piracy and RM157 million loss in tax in 2015. Also, over 1,200 jobs were lost in the local entertainment industry.

It’s a worldwide menace.

Variety last year reported that Season 7 of hit television series ‘Game Of Thrones’ was pirated more than 1 billion times! The majority of the pirated viewing were done via illegal streaming (84.55 per cent), while the rest were via torrents (9.12 per cent) and downloads (5.59 per cent).

Pirate Bay, the world’s largest BitTorrent website, has been down due to bad gateway. But tech journalist Blayne Slabbert says piracy sites have an “uncertain future” – given Pirate Bay’s repeated downtime, ongoing piracy crackdowns by governments and affordable streaming sites.

The UK government is coming down hard on Kodi users. The software offers access to thousands of channels, including live matches, movie channels and latest television shows for free. It is now being targeted by government agencies as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has outlined how they intend to step up their anti-piracy efforts, reported UK Express.

UK broadcasters Sky and BT adopted an aggressive approach in protecting their Premier League broadcasting rights by closing down pirate sites. Serves have been blocked while legal action is taken against those who show Premier League matches through illegal means.

India Today reported on June 28 that the Maharashtra government’s Cyber Digital Crime Unit has closed down 29 websites that provided pirated copies of Bollywood, Hollywood and television content.

Germany and Australia are also coming down hard on pirates. Japan had in April this year blocked websites that pirated manga and anime but this did not go down well with critics who argued it was a violation of the Constitution which states no censorship shall be maintained.

Japan’s Internet Content Safety Association said piracy websites should be regulated instead of blocking them. They fear this could be a means to censor information, including anti-government protests.

As for Gobind and Co., to impose a blanket ban may sound easy but it could infringe on the freedom of online access. Also, who decides what is acceptable and what isn’t?

Perhaps the ministry can start by getting tough on pirated DVD sellers before moving into the online sphere.

It could study the approach taken by developed nations and see which move best safeguards the privacy of Internet users and at the same time stems out piracy.