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Industry seeks greater government support at Anti-Piracy Conference

Organised by BroadcastPro ME, the conference brought together 120 industry professionals to tackle threats posed by piracy to stakeholders in the MENA region.

The 2019 Anti-Piracy Conference, hosted by BroadcastPro Middle East, brought together more than 120 industry professionals to discuss how to tackle the perils of piracy within the MENA region. Senior executives from broadcast houses and streaming platforms, legal experts as well as CTOs and solution providers discussed and debated the best way to fight piracy in the region. The conference featured a refreshed programme structure that stressed the need to build public awareness about pirated content, employ technology to safeguard assets, and the need to exchange best-practices collaboratively.

Risks posed by piracy and intellectual property violations were addressed by a stellar line-up of speakers. The first-panel discussion, moderated by Robert Lakos, Founder, Deleel TV, assessed the impact of piracy on MENA stakeholders. The guest speakers for this included Farah Ramadan, Digital Planning Manager, MBC Group; Manoj A Matthew, Territory Head – (MENA, Pakistan and Turkey), Zee Network; Frank Poppelsdorf, VP Product Management, Irdeto; Zahra Zayat – Vice President MENA – YuppTV Inc.; Ahmed Abbas, CEO, DigiSay.

Initiating the discussion, Lakos said the biggest problem with piracy is related to free-to-air content that is broadcast on channels that do not have the right to air that content.

Attributing the popularity of pirated content to various factors, Farah Ramadan of MBC Group pointed out that audiences are interested in pirated sites that are readily available and regularly updated. She added that pirates are getting wealthier by serving ads on their illegal sites. She commented that cutting their revenue streams was key. Zahra Zayat of YuppTV commented that if legal services had to compete with pirate sites, they must get their pricing strategy right along with offering a reliable service on any device at any time.

Abbas of DigiSay commented that pirates had better SEO and marketing skills and ensured better discoverability on search engines making them popular with consumers. Manoj Mathew of Zee recommended identifying illegitimate players and incentivising them to move over from the dark side to a legal service, something that the media house had successfully accomplished with some services in India. Frank Poppelsdorf of Irdeto commented that operators must be willing to relinquish some control to make consumers feel more comfortable while also ensuring that they always offered a very reliable service to consumers.

All agreed that premium content offered at a suitable price point with flexible payment options would help consumers choose a legitimate service over a pirate service.

The second panel moderated by Ahmed Abbas, CEO, DigiSay, addressed ways to shield media assets with the employment of technology. The line-up of panelists included Dr Guillaume Forbin, Director – Platform and Content Security, OSN; Sumit Suri, Managing Director & CTO, U-TO Solutions; Dr Naser Refaat, CTO, Rotana Media Group; Frank Poppelsdorf, VP Product Management, Irdeto.

Raising awareness about the need for superior levels of security for cable operators and OSN’s own sophisticated anti-piracy setup, Dr Forbin stated: “Paid TV platforms need state-of-the-art security to safeguard content. A content provider is as strong as their weakest link. That’s why we at OSN have invested heavily in curbing piracy.”

Speaking on possible counter-measures to attract customers to legal service providers, Sumit Suri commented that it was important to identify the source of piracy and disconnect it at a time when it would hurt viewers the most, for instance, when a live match was going on. The unreliability of a pirate service would push consumers to pay for a legitimate service. Identifying the source and disrupting that service was key, he pointed out.

The event closed with lawyers speaking about effective measures to combat piracy via implementation of technologies to curb the illegal distribution of content.

Chaired by Jon Parker, Partner/ Head of IP, Gowling WLG, the line-up of panelists included Aditya Verma, Senior Legal Counsel, OSN; Ameet Naik, Founder and Managing Partner, Naik Naik & Company; Nicki Schroeder, Senior Director Global Anti-Piracy, Discovery, Inc; and Walid Abdel Mohsen, Senior Legal Counsel, Rotana Media Group.

Speaking on the lack of audience consciousness regarding illegal content, Verma commented: “In the region, there’s an absence of awareness around what classifies as legal and illegal mainly because content is available free online.” Schroeder commented: “There has been significant criminalization of IP infringements in the Netherlands, US, UK, Spain, Germany, South Korea, and even China.”

This has been a positive step in the right direction of safeguarding content providers. She pointed out that pirates and legal services did not play by the same rules and therefore, it was difficult to justify a price point similar to an illegitimate service. Walid Abdel Mohsen decried the fact that judges deciding on theft failed to see content theft in the same light, which meant such criminals got off with a much lighter sentence in Egypt.

Ameet Naik, who represents many Bollywood entities and Indian media houses commented that India, which ranks fifth in the world for piracy, has successfully introduced laws to curb pirates resulting in taking down pirate sites more efficiently and quickly. He called for collaboration in MENA between different entities to ensure a more efficient and successful fight against piracy.

The panel agreed to the need for coalitions to press for rights holders to crack down on pirates, the importance of policing and support from authorities to track down illegal distributors and also the simultaneous need to create greater public awareness about copyrights and IP infringements.