Streaming live video over the internet has never been easier, but the tools to find illegal streams have never been better.
That should be overwhelmingly clear when Conor McGregor faces Floyd Mayweather this week. Those interested in the fight can cough up $99.95 for access to the broadcast on Showtime Saturday night.
But there also will be an audience sticking to another route: piracy. Illegal streams are sure to appear on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—to name a few.
Those streams will be facing off against systems that have been developed in recent years to quickly identify content without human input.
Online piracy of live events is nothing new. Facebook Pages have been spotted streaming entire feeds of CNN and ESPN, Ad Age reported. Some rights holders have fought back with intense monitoring and reporting, such as the Premier League identifying their live football games, according to The Guardian.
And piracy is not new to Showtime. Back in 2015, people like former Mashable writer Christina Warren watched the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight live on Periscope. Twitter’s live-streaming app, which had launched only a few months prior, provided a free option. There were dozens of streams to choose from on the app.
Even Twitter’s former CEO Dick Costolo celebrated despite the illegality.
Awkward… Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour later clarified.
Piracy does not excite us. Trust me, we respect IP rights & had many people working hard to be responsive last night (including myself)
— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) May 4, 2015
Well, get ready for another good night on Periscope everybody.
At that time, streaming copyrighted content involved smartphones pointed at TV screens. Now, tech for streaming is easily accessible and not too expensive. It’s still illegal, of course. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are all in compliance with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any number of illegal streams.
“All you need to do to stream a feed is to hook your cable box up to an encoder. This can be as simple as connecting a cheap piece of hardware into free computer software,” said Ben Ratner, a video producer for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Star Talk Radio, where he helps coordinate videos on Facebook Live (Mashable is a partner.)
While Ratner produces original video, the techniques for pirating are obvious to someone familiar with the equipment.
That news isn’t the end of the world for Showtime, which holds the exclusive broadcast rights to this weekend’s fight. It still pulled in more than $400 million despite the piracy problem in 2015. Estimates peg this weekend’s fight at $700 million, according to Deadline.
Tech platforms also have improved their systems for identifying and taking down pirated content since 2015. Facebook, for one, has been investing tech and people to monitor broadcasts. That comes after the service was heavily critiqued by YouTuber Hank Green in a Medium post titled “Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video” in August 2015.
“It’s a little inexcusable that Facebook, a company with a market cap of $260 BILLION, launched their video platform with no system to protect independent rights holders,” Green wrote.
Facebook released Rights Manager in April 2016. It works similarly to YouTube’s Content ID, where video publishers can upload reference streams to be matched with potential copyright infringement on the sites. That can include a feed of a live event such as the Mayweather-McGregor fight, which will then be a reference for tracking live videos of the same nature.
“We devote significant resources to address copyright issues for live content on Facebook. Video publishers and media companies can provide reference streams of live content that are checked against files in our Rights Manager tool,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
Facebook also has a staff addressing these reports. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in May the company planned to hire 3,000 staffers to monitor videos, including terrorist propaganda, child exploitations, hate speech, and violence. There’s also planned copyrighted material that is not illegal of nature but illegal to be on the social network.
“We’ve been growing our global team that processes these reports across time zones and continue to invest in our copyright tools. This remains a work in progress and we continue to listen to feedback from our partners to help improve our offerings,” the Facebook spokesperson wrote.
Twitter and Twitter’s Periscope doesn’t have a system similar to Facebook’s Rights Manager or YouTube’s Content ID, and the company does not proactively monitor content on the app and the site. Twitter simply relies on third-party reports of copyright infringements.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on any internal policies or staffing considerations for the event and directed Mashable to the company’s copyright policies.
No reporting, no problem? Carry on.
These systems aren’t being developed out of the kindness of these companies.There’s an arms race between Facebook, Twitter, YouTube along with Amazon to buy up the rights to broadcast live events. Just this week, Twitter and Facebook announced deals to stream college football. Amazon will broadcast 10 of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games later this year.
Perhaps you’ll find the next fight there.
Read more: http://mashable.com/