Fighting Media Piracy: Advanced Technology Tackles Organised Crime

24 November 2021 – Digital piracy presents enormous challenges for owners of valuable media rights. Live broadcasts of sports events are among the most popular content. No wonder national and international “digital pirates” are eager to get their hands on it. Organised criminal misuse of sports broadcasts causes substantial financial damage, not only to the sport itself and its media partners but also to those who consume illegal content, whether by making them download malware inadvertently, or by stealing their personal and payment information.

Where pirates are lurking

Behind this form of piracy are criminal organisations which mainly focus on two activities: The first is conventional web piracy, where viewers are lured to illegal streaming websites through advertisements or mail bots, which in turn are often financed by advertisements for harmful content directed at minors or other dubious commercial activities. The second criminal activity is paid IPTV subscriptions which are designed to resemble the services of legitimate DFL media partners. However, the perpetrators use a stolen broadcast signal, for example, by hacking the legal signal or abusing legal user accounts or TV smartcards to intercept the signal for illegal resale. Cyber criminals also use social media and search engines to provide links which direct viewers to pirated content.

ryghts takes an innovative approach

To fight organised cyber criminals abusing media rights, DFL decided to establish a an antipiracy joint venture together with Athletia in 2019. Athletia, a leading provider of piracy monitoring services for social media, had been a DFL contractor for several years. Their newly established joint venture “ryghts” now takes a broader approach to combatting piracy that covers all fields of activity – social media, web and IPTV. This allows ryghts to identify cross-channel activities and detect strategic patterns behind them. The company’s clients benefit from a special synergy effect: ryghts collects insights for the benefit of all of its clients. For example, any activity patterns detected on behalf of DFL will be considered when investigating rights abuses on behalf of other owners, as well – and vice versa. This results in a much clearer overall picture of major digital piracy practices, enabling highly focused countermeasures to shut them down.

ryghts uses smart technology and automation to detect, report and eliminate media rights abuses, supported by customised search term lists, direct platform links, dynamic database extensions, and systematic integration of a variety of data sources across all levels. This is especially useful for speedy discovery and termination of illegal streams. Nevertheless, human intelligence plays an equally important role in all of this: Once the raw data have been aggregated, they must be checked for plausibility and relevance using “soft” criteria that cannot be mapped to algorithms. This is important to prevent erroneous accusation. Once this human scrutiny has been completed, there can be clarity whether an illegal activity is truly at hand.

Through its integrated, cross-client approach covering a wide range of piracy activities, ryghts is able to achieve a unique data depth and quality that goes far beyond what has been available in the market to date. Based on the comprehensive datasets it compiles, ryghts can not only provide its clients with information about the symptoms of illegal activities but also drill down to unmask the perpetrators and provide clients with the full “back end” of information. This means that media piracy can be addressed in a much more targeted manner to root out the evil, delivering an enormous benefit to DFL and other clients.

Comprehensive services write an impressive success story

It is not least owing to these unique selling points in the antipiracy services market that ryghts today is globally successful, serving a client base far beyond Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 and including many other, international sports organisations. For example, the US National Baseball Association (NBA), ATP Media and the French Tennis Federation – the organiser of the Roland Garros tennis tournament – or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) all rely on the innovative services provided by ryghts. Notable media clients include YouTubeTV in USA, DAZN and Sky, among others.

Through its engagement with ryghts as part of its “DFL for equity” investment strategy, DFL has taken the next step to expand its range of activities and ensure quality across a wide spectrum of the media value chain, in this case in the field of media rights management.