|Topic:||The impact of social media on the illegal redistribution of content over the Internet|
|Author:||François Moreau de Saint Martin|
François is the CEO of Viaccess-Orca, part of the France Telecom Orange Group. Prior to forming Viaccess-Orca, he served as the CEO of Viaccess since 2007 and during that time the company doubled its revenues and expanded its presence in LATAM, India and the United States.
As CEO of Viaccess, François successfully led the acquisition and integration of Orca Interactive in 2008 and most recently led the merger between Viaccess and Orca Interactive to form the new company, Viaccess-Orca.
Before joining Viaccess, François was the CTO of the content division of France Telecom for three years and led the deployment of IPTV services in France, Poland, Spain as well as leading the first launch of MPEG4 services in IPTV, music download and streaming projects and VOD for PC services.
François began his career at France Telecom in1993 as Research and Development engineer and has extensive experience in multimedia and content.
From 1996 to 1998, François worked within the French Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry on a project dedicated to digital television, where he devoted his time to the audiovisual market. Between 1998 and 2001, he was head of the technical department at TDF in charge of multimedia broadcasting and Pay TV services. In 2001, he joined Transpac’s Internet and hosting services division before returning to France Telecom in 2004 to create the technical department of the content division.
François graduated from Ecole Polytechnique Paris and Telecom ParisTech.
This article examines the effect that social media has on the redistribution of content over the Internet, providing real-world insight into the challenges operators are facing based on results from a recent study of piracy while offering readers an effective strategy for tracking, fighting, and proving piracy.
Over the last five years there has been a dramatic shift in TV content consumption. Consumers today have an insatiable appetite for high-quality content, including live TV, on an ever growing number of devices, consequently creating a piracy epidemic. The reality for the service providers and owners is that live redistribution of content over the Internet is becoming a growing issue, especially during major sporting events. In fact, this past summer, during the world’s largest football competition in Brazil more than 20 million people watched the football games via illegal live-streaming over the Internet.
The rise in illegal content distribution can be attributed to several factors. First and foremost, Internet streaming has made it easier for consumers to view high-quality video content. In addition, consumers are no longer limited to watching live video content on the home television. They now have access to a wide range of connected devices, including smartphones and tablets. Social media networks also play a large role in the spread of pirated content. Today’s consumers are increasingly using social outlets like Facebook and Twitter to talk about what they’re watching, share content with friends, and sometimes in the process, they may even broaden the reach of link farms through these networks.
Why social media accelerates piracy
Social media networks significantly impact content consumption and redistribution. Why? Think about the very nature of social media. Any time a message is communicated across social media it’s instantaneous. For example, one moment a person is sitting in their living room watching television, and the next second they’re Tweeting about what they’re watching, capturing the interest of hundreds or thousands of their friends.
Oftentimes, consumers don’t even realize they’re on an illegal streaming website. That’s because many of today’s illegal streaming websites have just as much access to bandwidth as legitimate pay-TV operators, offer good enough video compression, and own sophisticated online production technologies, enabling them to deliver high-quality live streaming. Moreover, they look and feel legitimate. Their UI is often attractive and well designed, providing the user with a feeling of a legitimate service and a good user experience.
Indeed, some pirate sites are so professional-looking that they are able to generate revenue from major advertisers and consumers that have no clue that they are dealing with pirates; they believe they are subscribing to sites that simply charge lower prices for the same programming offered by established, legitimate operators.
Real-World snapshot of piracy on social media
Now that we know that social media networks are effective at helping to distribute illegal video content, it’s important to understand why. This past summer, during the world’s largest football competition in Brazil, Viaccess-Orca launched a campaign to track piracy of live television content, providing insight into the role social media plays in helping consumers discover and consume content that is redistributed illegally over the Internet.
During the campaign, we found that traditional Google searches are typically not very effective for identifying link farms since only the most popular websites appear in the first results. A link farm is any website, offering free of charge or paid service of illegal content, usually not at the streaming origin. However, many Facebook and Twitter pages can easily be identified as a source of content in a Google search, enabling a significant number of links to be found. In fact, Facebook was the fifth most popular link farm during the event.
The still-active pages are typically using Facebook itself as a link farm and include an application inside their pages that embeds a streaming player. Consumers usually only need to “like” the page in order to watch the content stream. Direct links to the P2P service can also be found. On Twitter we observed that typically one account promotes a single link farm.
Based on our finding, social networks facilitate a more effective and complete finding of multiple links for major sporting events compared with using conventional search engines. Once consumers know which Facebook pages to visit, they bookmark these pages and visit them directly, making search engines less needed.
Traditionally, content service providers and owners have addressed piracy by sending the pirate a takedown notice that demands an end to the illegal streaming, or by taking legal action against the network. Yet, to fully understand the content piracy landscape, and better protect their revenue streams, they need an anti-piracy solution that provides insight into the content being pirated (e.g., type/genre, timing, duration, location, audience, usage, etc.).
Every action on the Internet, including social media networks, makes a digital imprint, creating a wealth of information. Unfortunately, many content service providers and owners are not fully utilizing this data. By deploying an anti-piracy platform with global marketing intelligence and monitoring, they can determine where piracy is occurring, the amount of piracy that is taking place, and who is actually watching the illegal broadcasts, all in real time. Such a solution can be used to embed crawling capabilities in social networks like Facebook and Twitter to anticipate trends in viewers’ habits and usage in consuming content illegally redistributed over the Internet.
In addition to global marketing intelligence and monitoring tools, the platform should include active solutions to fight and prevent piracy, such as issuing cease and desist order or using technology to prevent rebroadcasting, especially during live transmissions. These types of solutions are valuable for combating social media violations. For example, during the first ten days of the football tournament this summer, we sent 150 takedown notices to Twitter and Facebook pages, with 51 percent of illegal links to games on the latter removed as a result.
Finally, the anti-piracy solution should include legal support, helping content service providers and content owners father detailed evidence about pirate organizations that can be used in court.
Deploying an intelligent anti-piracy solution is certainly the first step toward tackling the illegal redistribution of content over the Internet. But the truth is, content service providers and owners can’t tackle this issue alone. In addition to deploying an anti-piracy solution, they need to partner with social media networks. By reporting the link farms and illegal websites to the service providers and owners, social media networks can help fight the illegal redistribution of content over the Internet.