Available via the internet on almost any device, streaming services like Pluto TV, Tubi, The Roku Channel, and Freevee, offer TV shows and surprisingly large movie libraries, delivered across hundreds of channels.
Completely free to use, with quality improving all the time, FAST services are growing in popularity thanks to almost no barriers to entry.
Caveats Create Niche Market
FAST’s main quid pro quo is the installation of an official app through which viewing takes place. Easy to find on the App Store, Google Play, Amazon, and elsewhere, these apps act as a viewing portal, video player, and electronic program guide (EPG), all rolled into one. They’re also adept at pumping user data, including viewing habits and associated behavior, back to providers to ensure that free ad-supported TV makes up for lost currency through a firehose of advertising intelligence.
Another issue with the FAST approach is that availability on almost any device isn’t the same as being available on all devices. While PC users are catered for via a web browser, those accustomed to viewing using a dedicated player like VLC, or the full IPTV-approach of IPTVnator, are not. Enthusiasts of TVHeadend, NextPVR, and indeed Jellyfin, Kodi, and Plex users with a NextPVR plugin, face the same problem.
Or would, if a solution hadn’t already been found.
Fast Solutions to FAST Problems
Developer Matt Huisman solves problems like these for fun. Helping to ensure that availability is universal, behind the scenes Huisman’s software generates .m3u8 playlist files for many FAST services and makes those files available on his site.
Designed to be used as live links rather than downloaded, these .m3u8 files are not only convenient and easy to use. They automatically update when providers change their stream URLs. This provides a seamless experience, and for TVHeadend users, Huisman explains, helps to eliminate the annoyance of existing channels being detected as new channels when their URLs change.
How the .m3u8 files are generated isn’t something most users need to concern themselves with. For anyone hoping to understand DAZN’s DMCA takedown notice, filed against Huisman’s VPS host Vultr, after those details were handed over to DAZN by Cloudflare, a basic understanding of Huisman’s service is an absolute must.
Basics of Pluto TV and Huisman’s Playlists
It’s important to note that Pluto TV’s stream URLs are public. Streams are supplied via regular HTTP URLs (not HTTPS) in .m3u8 playlist format. No systems need to be bypassed to access the streams from a technical perspective although as the image shows, the URLs are pretty long and carry some identity-type strings. For the sake of privacy, if any exists, some chunks are redacted.
Huisman’s software acts as a 302 redirect, a temporary redirect from one URL to another. In this case, there’s a redirect from Huisman’s site to the latest legal stream available at Pluto TV, an alternative to hard-coding non-permanent stream URLs in the .M3U8 playlist file.
A loose analogy can be found in domain names, IP addresses and DNS. Huisman’s URLs are always the same (like domains) because when stream URLs change (IP addresses) the .m3u8 file quickly points to the right location but remains static to playlist users.
We’ll return to other important functionality shortly, but these are the basics needed to understand DAZN’s DMCA notice.
DMCA Notice – Copyright Infringement on DAZN Content
A notice with the title above begins by explaining DAZN’s role as a streaming service offering live sports events and on-demand streaming in territories worldwide. DAZN is the exclusive licensee of copyright in the audio-visual production of various live sporting content and events, the notice adds, before claiming the following (emphasis ours):
[DAZN] is also the creator of and thereby the owner of copyright in the original content created for DAZN (DAZN live linear channels) that have been infringed upon and hosted on your platform, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. Section 512.
“The unauthorized and infringing material can be found at the following URLs,” the takedown notice adds. (small sample of URLs below)
Identify Original Content Infringed and the Allegedly Infringing Content
These two pieces of information are the basics and basis for a valid DMCA takedown notice; identify the content owned and identify the location where the allegedly infringing content can be found.
“The copyrighted work that has been infringed upon consists of DAZN live linear channels DAZN 1, DAZN 2, DAZN Fights, DAZN Pluto, and DAZN Womens for which DAZN has not authorized the use of its copyrighted material on the aforementioned websites,” the notice reads.
This paragraph correctly identifies the original content but since the URLs listed in the DMCA notice (“the unauthorized and infringing material”) link to official stream URLs on the Pluto TV service, it appears that DAZN’s legal streams, on Pluto TV itself, are the original content and the allegedly-infringing content.
This inevitable conclusion is underlined in evidence supplied in support of the DMCA takedown notice. A screenshot of VLC clearly shows a live football match to which DAZN owns the rights, with one of Huisman’s redirect URLs listed as the ‘location’. To a casual onlooker, this seems to imply that the match is being illegally streamed from the URL on Huisman’s site when it’s actually being streamed directly from a URL on Pluto TV’s servers.
The lack of clarity certainly caused issues at Huisman’s host, which requested the developer to remove his entire domain due to the allegations in the DMCA notice. If the playlist had been the type often found on IPTV piracy sites, which typically contain links to pirated DAZN streams being made available from servers operated by pirates, that would make complete sense. That’s not the case here, however.
What Was The Aim of the Notice?
While the nature of this takedown notice always seemed destined to cause confusion, when DAZN files DMCA notices against pirate sites, no such confusion exists. A typical example takes a few seconds to read and less to understand.
The goal is the same in both notices, i.e. to have the URLs listed in the notice taken down. In that respect the notice targeting Huisman appears to have achieved its goals; as of this morning all URLs return ‘404 Not Found’.
However, in common with links that point to infringing content, the legal content linked in Huisman’s playlists also (and obviously) remains up. That raises the question of what DAZN hoped to achieve and why.
We don’t know for sure, but it seems reasonable to assume that another aspect of Huisman’s playlists may have implications for the DAZN bottom line. While the official Pluto TV playlist URLs are extensive and continue long after ‘.m3u8’ to facilitate the delivery of adverts, Huisman’s URLs end at ‘.m3u8’ and lack any additional advertising/tracking functionality.
In short, users see DAZN channels directly from Pluto TV’s servers but with no advertising whatsoever.
Again, just a theory, but trying to crowbar an ad-blocking complaint into a regular DMCA takedown notice would likely meet challenges. There’s no statement in the DAZN notice to indicate an ad-blocking issue, so we have to assume that isn’t the case here. However, the prospect conjures up all kinds of possibilities, especially in Germany where the DAZN channels in question are broadcast on Pluto TV.
In 2019, German publisher Axel Springer sued the company behind Adblock Plus, claiming that since adblockers “change the programming code of websites” that amounts to copyright infringement. A district court went on to dismiss the copyright claims, and the case.
For Huisman, everything is actually very straightforward.
“In my mind – no matter what the destination URL is – at the end of the day – it’s a simple redirect/shortcut. It’s the exact same thing as TinyURL or other URL shorteners,” the developer concludes.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.