As digital piracy shifts away from torrent downloads and towards unauthorized streaming and theft-based extortion, stakeholders from all parts of the creativity community are reassessing their efforts to fight online infringement. This week, a global coalition of creators and leading on-demand entertainment services joined forces to better address the ever-evolving threat that piracy poses not only to artists and copyright owners, but to consumers and end users. Named the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (or ACE), the group brings together 30 industry leaders—including Amazon, HBO, Warner Bros., Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and the BBC—to maximize consumer experience while ensuring the vibrant creative ecosystem they support is not undermined by piracy.
In an opening press release, the Alliance describes the recent exponential growth of digital distribution models and the development of nearly 500 online services that provide consumers with a legitimate on demand viewing experience. And while these platforms have revolutionized the way consumers watch TV and movies, they’ve also added great value to a creative sector that is responsible for $1.2 trillion and 5.5 million jobs in the US alone.
Unfortunately, illicit websites—which sometimes offer pirated works within hours of release—remain a burden to the creative ecosystem and the artists and platforms that drive it. Despite encouraging efforts both in the US and abroad to disable some of the worst offenders, the constant game of cat and mouse with mirroring websites and the emergence of illicit streaming sites continue to frustrate the fight against piracy. According to the press release, in 2016 there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated films and television shows and 21.4 billion total visits to illicit streaming websites that profit from the theft and unauthorized distribution of creative works.
To combat these enduring acts of infringement, ACE brings together creative companies from all over the world to combine resources and work in concert with seasoned antipiracy experts at organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Specifically, “ACE will conduct research, work closely with law enforcement to curtail illegal pirate enterprises, file civil litigation, forge cooperative relationships with existing national content protection organizations, and pursue voluntary agreements with responsible parties across the internet ecosystem.”
By reducing illegal online piracy, ACE will also work to eliminate the risks to consumers that so often accompany the illegitimate distribution of creative works. A recent study by the Digital Citizens Alliance found that one in three pirate sites expose users to infectious malware and that visitors to these pirate sites are 28 times more likely to encounter malware than visitors to legitimate websites. The serious threats posed to consumers by malware and viruses include not only identity theft and financial loss, but the complete immobilization of entire computer systems, as seen in the recent Wannacry attack.
With pirate site operators finding new ways to profit from the theft and distribution of creative works, it’s encouraging to see a unified and global effort dedicated to reducing piracy, supporting creators, and protecting consumers.