The UFC, NFL, and NBA are demanding stricter online piracy enforcement from authorities.
The globally renowned sports brands are joining forces to lobby the U.S. government for a revamp of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Their primary aim? To fight back against the growing menace of live streaming piracy.
Here’s an in-depth look at the problem and the proposed solution.
The Eroding Value of Live Broadcasts
Each event hosted by these sports giants garners millions of viewers. These broadcasts are no small feat – monetized through hefty licensing agreements and pay-per-view events that run into billions of dollars.
While numerous fans are willing to shell out to watch these games, many find the costs prohibitive, leading them to pirated live streams, which cater to millions.
Yet, when addressing this black market, these sports leagues grapple with a significant issue: the DMCA’s sluggish takedown notices.
In their recent communication to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), they’ve highlighted the inefficacy of the current DMCA takedown process for live events.
For live sports streaming, the allure lies in the immediacy of the broadcast.
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If it takes several hours or even days for service providers to act upon a DMCA notice, the event has already concluded, rendering the action practically pointless.
The trio wrote, “Many OSPs (online service providers) frequently take hours or even days to remove content in response to takedown notices. This delay allows infringing live content to stay online during peak moments, sometimes for the entirety of the event.”
The DMCA and Its Outdated Provisions
Introduced in 1998 by President Bill Clinton, the DMCA existed in an era before live streaming was mainstream.
While the DMCA mandates takedown notices to be addressed “expeditiously,” there’s ambiguity surrounding what ‘expeditious’ really means.
For some, a few hours might be acceptable, but for live sports events, this delay can be catastrophic.
In their plea, UFC, NBA, and NFL emphasize, “The DMCA, created before the boom of internet-based live streaming, isn’t equipped to tackle the current piracy challenges surrounding live content.”
The Call for Instant Takedowns
An unsettling trend in recent years has been using legitimate social media platforms for live-streaming piracy.
These illicit streams promote pirated content or misuse the platform’s live-streaming functionalities.
To combat this, these sports behemoths want Section 512 of the DMCA revised. They believe the word ‘expeditiously’ should imply content removal “instantaneously or near-instantaneously” following a takedown request.
While they haven’t quantified the exact duration for “near-instantaneously”, it’s clear they are advocating for a matter of minutes, not hours.
Furthermore, they suggest that live streaming on social media platforms be restricted to users passing certain verification criteria. This would effectively bar new users or those with a negligible follower base.
The organizations state, “Some OSPs already have such measures in place, proving that these are viable, practical, and essential in curbing livestream piracy.”
Global Efforts and the Road Ahead
This isn’t the first instance of sports rightsholders clamoring for stringent actions against piracy.
In Europe, proposals for shorter takedown windows have been in discussions for a while. While the European Commission hasn’t incorporated these yet, Italy has recently embraced a 30-minute window for a live-streaming takedown.
It remains to be seen if the U.S. will follow suit and overhaul the DMCA. However, spotlighting the issue is undoubtedly the initial step towards a potential solution.
For more information on this story, refer to the letter sent to the US Patent and Trademark Office (PDF) and the report from TorrentFreak.
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