Hacking in the age of OTT

When Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar (not yet Disney+), began their growth spurt, a generation that had grown up streaming content on Torrents sat up and took notice. Could this spell the end of bit torrent clients and hard drives full of downloaded international content? Was demand-on-demand really going to become the new normal in film and TV?

For a while, that seemed to be the case. Netflix was the first to shake up India’s streaming culture, and Amazon wasn’t far behind. After Disney acquired and redesigned Hotstar, it became a platform for some notable content, including HBO specials (like Game of Thrones), instead of just targeting live sports fans. With a few players in the field, subscription fees to suit most budgets, the tradition of torrent downloads has well and truly caught on. However, as network television seized on the new reality of on-demand content, the only way they realized they could capitalize on this lucrative new market was to launch their own channels/websites/ streaming platforms. To the dismay of the average consumer, the domain has once again exploded into various sections, with each broadcast conglomerate launching its own OTT streaming platform, each trying to entice viewers with tempting premium content. Just when we thought we had escaped the pain and confusion of trying to select the perfect satellite TV package, the on-demand OTT sphere had fragmented again.

So if you want to watch Bridgerton on Netflix, Mirzapur on Amazon Prime Video, and also The Mandalorian on Disney+, you’re again thrust into the painful decision-making of which subscription plan to choose. Because none of the OTT bundles are particularly cheap and when added together they can add up to a pinch. It was the same dilemma of an abundance of choices (or rather hard choices) that online hackers had been waiting for. After a few years of lull, the time had come for piracy to reappear under a new guise, to give back to the public what they want: that is to say, all the content, on demand, all the time.

Main causes of piracy

Piracy, by the very definition of the term, designates the illegality and mischief. So why do people still do it? There are a number of factors to this, most of which have remained constant over the years and even with changes in technology.

  1. People love free stuff. It’s obvious and painfully obvious. Because why not?!
  2. As pointed out above, everything you want to watch has a price. Combined, it’s a nice pinch on the pocket. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop you from wanting it. And torrent downloads again come to the rescue.
  3. Regional availability. Global interest is piqued when a show (even if it’s in an international language) makes waves in a particular region. Localized content generating interest through word of mouth on the Internet makes people want to download it even though it may not be available in your country/region.
  4. Broadcast delayed. For fear of spoilers, an international release may be pirated in other parts of the world where it may be unavailable or delayed in release.
  5. Purchase difficulties. Different shows/movies/content are on different platforms. You may have succumbed to Netflix subscription, only to find that your old favorite show is streaming on Hulu or Peacock or Disney+, requiring additional payments, separate account creations, payment difficulties, etc. Additionally, many premium platforms require payment to be made via credit cards only, which rules out many potential consumers.
  6. Single view. Many people find it impractical to engage with a platform just to watch content once (this applies especially to platforms that broadcast live content, such as sports, concerts or shows). events).
  7. Stand up against Big Corp. Seeing the mainstream production houses with their millions makes the small consumer see piracy as a kind of militant rebel stance against Big Corp. the top can’t hurt. Can he?
  8. Seeing so many other peers indulge in online content piracy may lead some to think that this is the way it should be and that they are doing nothing wrong. It can be quite difficult to convince them to believe otherwise.

Hacking yesterday and today

In the 2000s (i.e. until around 2015), piracy involved more dedication and effort, both on the part of the pirate and on the part of the downloader. Pirates went to great lengths to obtain content, whether it was ripping official CDs or DVDs, smuggling a camera into a movie theater to record a movie in progress, or waiting patiently hours of programmed television in order to capture an entire broadcast. Downloaders also had to invest in storage devices, high-speed Internet connections, and run the risk of virus infections and unwittingly downloading malware and corrupting their systems with almost every download.

But now that all the content has been uploaded voluntarily, on various platforms, it has become easier for hackers to copy the content (using advanced software) or obtain the main file from confidential sources. Additionally, advances in smartphone technology and mobile internet speeds mean that pirates are now more mobile than ever, and content is pirated and streamed simultaneously, on the go, unhindered by laptops. or desktop computers. From peer-to-peer file sharing to the beginnings of digital piracy, the shift is now almost complete to illegal online streaming. In fact, over 87% of users who illegally download music almost exclusively use mobile devices to do so.

Measures against digital piracy

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center estimated in 2019 that online piracy accounted for 26.6 billion views of films produced in the United States and 126.7 billion views of TV episodes produced in the United States. United States every year. The economic impact of digital video piracy extends well beyond the film and television industries and results in overall national revenue losses and reduced GDP. Annual global revenue losses due to digital piracy range between $40 billion and $97.1 billion in the film industry, and illegal downloading of copyrighted content occupies 24% of global bandwidth.

MUSO, a company that tracks global data on online piracy, ranked India as the country (behind the US and Russia) with the third highest number of visits to known pirate websites in its report. full 2018.

The problem with fighting online piracy today is that while the methods of piracy have evolved, the methods used to fight piracy have remained the same. Additionally, it has become more difficult to identify and track the number of viewers of illegal streaming content, given that the majority of viewers are streaming content anyway. Whether through shared accounts, virtual proxies or social networks, tracking illegally streamed content alongside millions of legitimate viewers has become a nightmare.

Over 80% of global online piracy can be attributed to illegal streaming services. Additionally, the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic has also contributed to an explosion in online piracy, as more people than ever across the economic divide have been confined to their homes with little to keep them busy or distracted. With cinemas closed at the time, with no certainty as to when they might even resume operations (if at all), at the time, many high-billed movie releases (like Marvel’s Black Widow and Warner Bros. Wonder Woman 1984) were released simultaneously on online platforms, and suffered almost immediately at the hands of digital pirates (so much so that Scarlett Johansson even ended up suing Marvel for the same thing!)

Even laws such as the DMCA or the IT Act, fail to adequately protect against illegal streaming (content being available online legally and voluntarily, now it is mainly access that has become problematic). It is also difficult for countries to legislate against content from other countries that have lax regulations on intellectual property protection.

Copyright laws are enforceable, but involve tedious litigation that takes time and involves a heavy burden of proof, which can be difficult to achieve. Additionally, hackers are adept at reposting content to new places after being taken down from a site.

Nowadays, online platforms have become much more proactive in removing copyright infringing content and most major countries have made it mandatory for intermediaries, including OTT platforms, to provide infrastructure to respond to requests from rights holders. However, it remains difficult to control the content that is rampantly streamed on social media apps such as Telegram and YouTube, or on VPNs.

In India, a positive development has been the courts allowing dynamic injunctions to combat online piracy, particularly in cases where the proliferation of online links extends over a very short period of time.

Conclusion/ Way forward

Advertising and subscription video streaming services are losing up to 30% of their annual revenue to piracy in India alone. This problem is unfortunately only expected to get worse over time, as studies and surveys show that millennials and Gen Z individuals find software and entertainment piracy to be perfectly normal. While streaming services helped curb online piracy for a brief period, giving users access to on-demand media at reasonable rates, with the proliferation of OTT platforms, there has now come a situation of ‘flow fatigue’ where there is simply too much content to consume far too little time to do so. Some methods adopted by platforms to control the impacts of piracy are digital rights management, a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media, secure URL, VPN blocking, Bot and Rogue traffic blocking , code protection and content watermark to control piracy. However, even that might not be enough, and analysts are predicting a wave of failures and consolidation over the next few years, likely to lead to even more hacking. Consumer awareness and education is again of paramount importance, but the main enemy in the fight against piracy is widespread public apathy.

Comments are closed.