Anyone who has followed piracy and copyright infringement issues for years or even decades, few developments fall into the ‘WOW’ category anymore.
That torrent and streaming services are still getting sued or raided is frankly daily fodder and after the military-style raid on Kim Dotcom hit the headlines, pretty much anything is possible.
Over the past couple of years, however, something so bizarre – so ridiculous – has been developing on sites like YouTube to make even the most outspoken of pirates raise an eyebrow or two. We’re talking about the rise of the IPTV seller and reseller ‘celebrities’ who are openly promoting their businesses like a regular company might.
As reported this week, IPTV reseller company Boom Media LLC is getting sued by DISH Networks and NagraStar in the United States. That another one of these outfits is being targeted isn’t a shock. However, when promotional YouTube videos are produced in court evidence, with the alleged owner of the company personally appearing in them stating that “it’s pirated f**cking streams. It’s no different than buying f**king knockoff shoes. It’s black market shit,” one has to wonder what the hell is going on.
So, just one person has allegedly done something reckless or ill-considered, right? Wrong. This type of behavior is neither isolated or rare.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sitting through hours of YouTube videos produced by people selling or reselling ‘pirate’ IPTV packages. In a worrying number, particularly given the popularity of their services, owners, founders, or ’employees’ of these outfits appear in person.
Their names are publicly known and in some cases, even their addresses. These are not small players, not by any stretch. In some cases, we’re talking huge numbers of followers and many hundreds of thousands of views, selling well-recognized services.
While in some cases hyperbole is clearly part of the pitch, it’s child’s play to find operators of these companies bragging about how much money they’ve made or are making, and how many customers they have. They speak to their subscribers, in person via live-streams, conduct detailed Q&A sessions, while ‘confirming’ the supposed legality of what they’re doing.
In a surprising number of cases, negative comments by users concerning legality are passed off as ridiculous, with sellers describing the sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions as residing in a gray area with the law powerless to do anything about it. While we could have a detailed argument here about the intricacies of any number of laws, both criminal and civil, and any potential defenses to them, these people appear to be missing the point.
Just this week, Openload – a true Internet giant with considerable resources – was pummeled into submission by dozens of the world’s largest content companies after agreeing to pay substantial damages. This was a file-hosting goliath being beaten up dozens of bigger goliaths. No face on YouTube required.
Another example can be found in Kim Dotcom, who says he has spent upwards of $40m in legal fees, even though, on the surface, many argue he has a solid legal basis for mounting a successful defense in the United States. But that’s $40,000,0000 already, before trial, an amount that will no doubt skyrocket in the event he ever gets sent there.
But here’s the thing. The majority of these IPTV ‘celebrities’, for want of a better term, are actually living in the United States already. It’s not necessary to name any of them, they do enough of that themselves. But in addition to their self-declared IPTV empires, some have significant and legitimate additional business interests too, which could all be put in jeopardy, one way or another, should the proverbial hit the fan.
In a piracy world where many are discussing anonymity, encryption, proxies, cryptocurrency payments, to name just a few, these people are deliberately making their identities known. They are not hiding away and as a result, they are known by anti-piracy groups who probably can’t believe their luck.
They not only have their real names and their own faces splashed across their own IPTV-based YouTube channels, but also channels that cover other aspects of their sometimes flamboyant lives. Anti-piracy groups don’t need investigators to find out who they are anymore, it’s common knowledge. An alias? Not parading yourself on the modern equivalent of TV? That’s soooo 1999, apparently.
The big question is whether these people really have lost their minds, or do they actually know something that most other people don’t? When did putting your own face in multiple videos, selling access to an admittedly pirated product via a company in your own name, become part of a solid business plan? It’s truly bizarre and cannot end well.
Welcome to 2019, it’s a truly strange place to be.