When Italian lawmakers finally passed new law in the summer designed to crack down on pirate IPTV providers once and for all, powerful Serie A football clubs, broadcasters, and influential business associates, breathed a joint sigh of relief.
The tools needed to avert the imminent destruction of Italian football had finally been enshrined in law following a massive lobbying and media campaign.
Four years earlier, a similar ‘Piracy Kills Football‘ campaign launched to dire warnings that the destruction of Italian football was imminent then. Yet somehow, against all odds, football somehow managed to survive before coming face to face with another crisis.
That’s one of the interesting things about anti-piracy campaigns and subsequent lobbying; fortunes can suddenly pivot in unexpected ways, despite whatever was claimed earlier.
Massive IPTV Takedowns Boost Illegal Consumption?
For example, as Italian football faced imminent demise between 2019 and 2021, authorities announced unprecedented success after raids reportedly “blacked out” an estimated 80 percent of the illegal IPTV flow into Italy. Just six months later in early 2022, authorities reportedly “dismantled” an IPTV operation servicing 500,000 subscribers and then followed up by shutting down another with 900,000 subscribers a few months later.
Running parallel to these huge successes, reported consumption of pirate IPTV services in Italy apparently increased year-on-year according to studies commissioned by rightsholders. Italian football was again facing a worst-case scenario if piracy couldn’t be brought under control.
Only Massive IPTV Blocking Can Save Football
When rightsholders want new powers that most governments don’t award themselves, Armageddon can suddenly find itself more imminent than ever before with implications for entire countries. On the plus side, solutions are usually available to end the nightmare, if only the law permitted their use.
This summer a long process to convince anyone who mattered that technologically advanced internet blocking, carried out on an unprecedented scale, needed to be authorized by law, came to an end. New legislation was signed, and quickly approved by telecoms regulator AGCOM.
All rightsholders had to do was roll out their anti-piracy system to show it could do all the things people claimed it could do, and get ready to take out the pirates.
For reasons that still haven’t been made clear, the full system was nowhere near ready. It still wasn’t ready at the start of the new football season on August 8 despite monitoring capability having been fully operational for years.
At the end of August, an insider acknowledged the delay and then added that the system was “insane” and would “solve digital piracy” when it launched in September or October. A technical roundtable did go ahead in early September, but there was no launch in September and no launch in October either.
Now dubbed ‘Piracy Shield‘ the system had to launch no later than yesterday, December 7, 2023.
Definitely No Laws Broken, Piracy Shield is Now Active
As reported by DDAY.it, telecoms regulator AGCOM informed Italy’s ISPs that Piracy Shield would go live on December 7, as required by law. And it did – albeit with a couple of tiny caveats.
“According to our information, Agcom has sent notification to all providers that the platform is finally online and at the same time has activated on its website, via SPID, the authentication procedure for users who will have to use the platform,” DDAY.it reports.
“However, active does not mean fully operational and automated, because the feeling is that ISPs may still need some time to integrate the mechanisms that avoid human intervention.”
Only during the last few days have Piracy Shield operation manuals been sent out to those authorized to file copyright complaints and those tasked with executing the blocks, Italy’s ISPs.
“For security reasons, it is likely that providers will still take a few weeks to carry out all the implementations at a technical level, although the timing obviously changes from provider to provider: the larger ones are certainly better equipped and could be ready in a very short time,” DDAY.it concludes.
Just in Time For Tonight’s Big Game
Tonight’s big game between Juventus and Napoli, a classic north/south rivalry in Serie A, is what the beautiful game is all about. All games in Serie A are important, but matches like this elevate heart rates and as passions soar, Serie A needs fans to go legal and support the sport, despite cheaper yet illegal offers already on the table.
Before Piracy Shield even existed as a market-ready product, big claims about what this type of system could achieve were regular parts of the discussion. There’s no question that those tasked with ensuring its competence in a live environment have relevant experience and will do whatever is reasonably possible. Unfortunately, some lofty claims made over the past 12 months have set an unreasonably high bar that in practical terms will be hard to achieve.
That IP address lists pertinent to tonight’s game may end up being circulated via text files and then blocked manually by ISPs, is a far cry from the glittering promises made during the past year. But these are still early days and the fight against IPTV piracy is a marathon event, not a sprint.
That being said, the coming months will be pivotal. Piracy Shield simply has to deliver but how that will be measured is far from clear. Reporting how many streams it blocks seems a likely candidate, but the real test lies in TV subscriber numbers, which are directly linked to fans’ willingness to pay, not necessarily the availability of pirate streams.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.