President Trump recently explained that the United States is “acting swiftly on intellectual property theft,” adding that we cannot “allow this to happen as it has for many years.” Meanwhile, a panel of experts met on Capitol Hill last week to examine intellectual property theft and the growing threat of streaming media boxes. The MPAA revealed that the Department of Justice is looking into criminal action for several “candidates” that peddle pre-configured set-top boxes enabling piracy. The United Kingdom has already arrested numerous individuals accused of this behavior.
However, the U.S. has thus far been comparatively restrained in its actions. TorrentFreak reports that, “it was almost as if the stampede towards convenient yet illegal streaming had caught” some in the industry “by surprise.”
That changed in October 2017, when the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) sued TickBox TV, a Georgia-based company selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes; in January 2018, the same group “targeted Dragon Media, a company in the same line of business.”
On Capitol Hill, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) took a closer look at this popular phenomenon by hosting a panel on “Unboxing the Piracy Threat of Streaming Media Boxes.”
“While many users legally stream online content using devices like Fire TV Sticks, Chromecasts, and Rokus, there are a growing number of users who buy devices such as the TickBox or Dragon Box to avoid paying for content,” explains ITIF in its event description. “Not surprisingly, sales of these ‘pirate boxes’ are taking off — a 2017 study from Sandvine found that roughly 6 percent of North American households were using one to stream unlicensed content.”
Speakers included MPAA senior vice president, federal advocacy and regulatory affairs Neil Fried. “There’s a criminal enterprise going on here that’s stealing content and making a profit,” he said. “The piracy activity out there is bad, it’s hurting a lot of economic activity and creators aren’t being compensated for their work.”
Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property assistant director Kevin Madigan also reported that streaming-based piracy is quickly overtaking torrent-based content, although, reports TorrentFreak, there are still 150 million torrent users worldwide. Digital Citizens Alliance executive director Tom Galvin also noted that, “if you go down the piracy road, those boxes aren’t following proper security protocols, there are many malware risks.”
TorrentFreak considers Trump’s pronouncement to be significant given that he is “not usually that vocal on matters of intellectual property and piracy.”
The ITIF panel discussion is available in its entirety on YouTube.