The inaugural Anti-Piracy Conference held on May 2, 2018 at Dubai’s Ritz Carlton Hotel underscored the need for a collaborative, multi-faceted approach towards combating piracy. It also called for regulators to play a more active role to check piracy.
The half-day conference organised by Dubai-based trade magazine BroadcastPro ME played host to more than 120 of the region’s broadcasters, satellite operators, telcos and solutions providers.
The morning opened with a CEO panel on understanding the many facets of piracy. Fresh from the successes of the MENA Broadcast Satellite Anti-Piracy Coalition with the closure of 18 illegal channels, Sam Barnett, CEO of the MBC Group, conceded that the battle was far from won. He outlined the unique challenges that the 22 nations across the MENA posed for the industry including an ambivalent attitude towards content piracy.
Moderated by Christophe Firth from A.T. Kearney Middle East, the panel discussed the need for a multi-pronged approach to piracy. While Martin Stewart of OSN said that piracy of streaming content is one of the biggest challenges the industry currently faces, he also highlighted the broadcaster’s initiatives towards education and increasing awareness.
Mukund Cairae, CEO of Zee Network stated the need for stronger enforcement of laws. “There needs to be a greater fear of regulation,” Cairae stressed.
Highlighting the international dimensions of the problem, Maaz Sheikh, CEO and co-founder of Starz Play believed that the likes of Google and Amazon needed to play a bigger role. He also highlighted the OTT provider’s efforts in fighting piracy by differentiating through superior broadcast quality and subtitles in Arabic, among other initiatives.
Building on the CEO debate, the second panel on the legal aspects of piracy looked critically at the cost of litigation and the deterrence effect, if any, of the punishments meted out to pirates. Omar Obeidat, Partner and Head of Intellectual Property, Al Tamimi & Co opened by saying that it was fortunate that the growing menace of internet piracy was covered by copyright laws. From deportations to confiscation of equipment, fines and jail time, he recounted the multiple judicial successes in the region.
Aditya Verma Senior Legal Counsel at OSN also concurred on prosecutorial successes.
“Piracy is not a victimless crime,” he said underlying the need for fair monetary compensation for the aggrieved parties.
“What about 12-year-old content pirates?” asked moderator and media consultant, Eric Macinnes. Obeidat stressed the need for education and broached the concept of ethical hacking to better understand the weak links in the distribution of content. Among the suggestions the panel came up with, Waleed Mahboob, Content Director at Diwan Videos spoke about approaching advertisers and dissuading them from advertising on pirate sites in a bid to cut their financial support.
The concluding panel on the technical and operational strategies towards combating piracy was moderated by Alex Borland, Head of Media Sales EMEA at Ericsson. While the first panel highlighted the importance of having coalitions within the industry to fight piracy, the concluding panel highlighted the need to strategise and deploy technology.
Mike Barley, Chairman of FACT, offered the successes of the Sky Group over the years that was achieved with a combination of technology deployment and swift punishment.
Petr Peterka, CTO of Verimatrix said there was need for consistency in the deployment of technology such as watermarking; otherwise, the problem gets displaced globally. Dr. Naser Refaat, CTO of Rotana Media Group struck a sombre note stating that closing a few channels does not translate to enduring success.
“We are not winning right now,” he said and cited the lack of centralised registration of content and absence of regulation from the top, as primary reasons. He, however, believed that the right moves are under way to bring the regulators and the industry together and within a year, the MENA region should have a better grip on the menace of piracy.
Speaking to BroadcastPro ME, delegates at the conference believed that the views expressed were candid and eye-opening, and a useful platform to discuss the sensitive issue of piracy in the region. Delegates were also given an exclusive report on anti-piracy by MUSO.
The event drew attendance from the wider region. Nigel Rosette from a Seychelles-based IPTV provider, for instance, commented that the rampant piracy in his island nation drew him to attend this conference.
Raz Islam, Managing Director of CPI Trade Media, the publisher of BroadcastPro ME added: “We are encouraged by the turnout and the quality of debate, and we hope to make this conference a regular annual feature.”