MPA Cites Progress in Combating Stream-Ripping 'Mobsters'

MPA CEO Charles Rivkin
(Image credit: MPA)

The online video piracy threat is no longer Napster or music file sharing but "real life mobsters" who combine the streaming of stolen video with "gambling, money laundering, tax evasion, drugs, grand theft auto [the crime not the game], and prostitution."

That was the message from Motion Picture Association Chairman Charles Rivkin to CinemaCon in Las Vegas Tuesday (April 26), who suggested it may take the anti-piracy equivalent of the Marvel Avengers team, which MPA has built, to stop "stream-rippers."

Rivkin said the piracy of Napster and selling illegal DVDs on the street had gone the way of dial-up modems and brick telephones and given way to a global industry of sophisticated streaming sites filled with stolen intellectual property.

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He cited pirate site f.movies, which he said was the most popular streaming site in the world with 80 million visits a month, with half of those from the U.S., which makes it more popular than Gmail.

"Many illegal streaming services come with subscriptions that cost $10 to $20 a month, offering live and catch-up TV, pre-release, and post-release films (and television shows), live sports content – the full array," he said, "and it's often beautifully presented, with state-of-the-art navigation."

He said stream-ripping is often done at high speed and high quality, with operations spread across the globe with servers in one place, distribution in another, and "rogue intermediaries" to facilitate the crime.

To combat that threat, Rivkin said MPA had created the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) in 2017, a group now 40-strong, with responses to piracy that ranged from nice to not so nice.

Nice included cease and desist operations that, most recently, shut down three Canadian subscription streaming services peddling pirated content -- more than 15,000 channels worth, and one in Florida that had 200,000 visits per month and tens of thousands of active pay subs.

The not so nice included filing civil cases.

MPA has also struck a deal with the Department of Homeland Security to embed MPA investigators inside DHS.

"I’m encouraged by our progress in this ongoing fight against piracy," Rivkin said. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.