While movies can be obtained from BitTorrent sites and live TV watched on unlicensed streaming portals, the combined experience generally lacks convenience when compared to official services. There is, however, a massive price difference to sweeten the deal.
Illicit IPTV services, on the other hand, nicely fill the middle ground. Providing decent quality streaming TV with VOD services often alongside, they offer superior convenience at bargain basement prices. As a result, these are increasingly being targeted by copyright holders.
IPTV services are prevalent across Europe with many anti-piracy groups trying to mitigate the threat. One such outfit is Netherlands-based BREIN who recently went to court in an effort to shut down an IPTV supplier.
In an ex-parte application dated April 27, 2017, BREIN asked for an immediate injunction to prevent live TV and on-demand streams being offered by the provider. BREIN described the infringement as both “large scale” and “professional”.
According to the anti-piracy outfit, the supplier offered subscriptions costing between 80 euros and 119.95 euros per year, which provided almost 1,800 channels of infringing content.
Included in the package was a VOD service, which offered around 545 HD movies organized into categories including action, comedy, sci-fi, kids and drama. These kinds of services often contain the latest movies, beyond what even Netflix is able to offer.
Since the content provided by the supplier was accessed via a hyperlink (in this case an .M3U file), BREIN cited the recent GS Media decision from the European Court of Justice, which found that there is a communication to the public when illicit content is supplied via a for-profit link.
The anti-piracy group also noted that streams would often be accompanied by corresponding movie posters or DVD covers, which also amounts to copyright infringement according to local case law.
On May 1, 2017, the supplier received the ex parte order, upon which BREIN agreed to enter into a settlement agreement of 10,000 euros plus further potential multiple penalties of the same amount.
“The provider has the obligation to pay a penalty of 10,000 euros for each individual IPTV subscription, individual hyperlink, or day that he acts in violation of the court order and continues with the sale of IPTV subscriptions,” BREIN said in a statement.
While these amounts may sound large, the initial 10,000 euro settlement seems relatively reasonable given the substantial penalties that could be handed down following a successful direct infringement lawsuit.
Of course, if the supplier wants to avoid further penalties, his service needs to come down, something which is likely to infuriate customers that have already paid money up front. BREIN is happy to pile on the pressure in this respect and is encouraging people to be proactive.
“We advise consumers who bought such a media player and / or subscription to retrieve their money from the seller,” says Kuik.
“Once the links are no longer tracked, the boxes and subscriptions stop working. People are getting excited. It’s better to spend your money on legal offerings, so you pay for innovation and creation and you can keep enjoying new content.”
In the meantime, dozens of similar suppliers will move in to fill the gap. Whether once-bitten customers will risk another spend will remain to be seen but the usual advice around IPTV discussion forums is not to commit to long-term subscriptions – they can end in disappointment.