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    • 23.05.2024
    • By Alliance For Creativity & Entertainment
    Alliance For Creativity & Entertainment

    From time to time, Alliance in Action will spotlight an ACE member to further explore the global impact of digital piracy in the context of a recent ACE action. We’re kicking things off this month with two ACE member MBC Group and OSN Group, who have been ACE members since 2022. We reached out to Ahmed Qandil, Director of Growth Marketing VOD at MBC GROUP/SHAHID, and Fiona Robertson, General Counsel at OSN Group to get their insights on the ACE shutdown of Cima4U and the broader impact of piracy on their companies and the digital content industry. The interview was edited for length and clarity



    Tell us briefly about how Cima4U impacted your companies beforeweshut down the site.


    Ahmed Quandil, MBC Group: Cima4U was a widely viewed outlet that pirated MBC Group’s content and was able to manifest itself under several domains. It was one of the top piracy outlets that we had on our radar. It had accumulated significant pirated traffic that diverted users away from our legitimate properties, which impacts our business on different levels including ROI and brand.

    Fiona Robertson, OSN Group: The unfortunate reality is that, in this region, the streaming of paid content through illicit means is rampant. These operators affect our ability to maximize our audience for our legitimate content offering.  Enforcement actions, such as raids on owners or administrators of pirate websites, have a positive impact on our business and the industry generally.  These activities have far-reaching effects, not only serving as a stern warning to operators like cima4u and egybest about the legal repercussions of their actions but, very importantly, disrupting the viewing habits of consumers and end-users. They also initiate a wave of awareness within the viewing community, shedding light on the illegality of their practices.

    The effect of enforcement measures is tangible. In the case of Cima4u, they complied with infringement and takedown notices which lead to the removal of illegal content from the platform.  The operators were jailed.  This underscores the power of enforcement actions in reducing the number of illegal digital content platforms, particularly the larger operators, which in turn will create a more sustainable ecosystem for content creators and distributors.


    Can you share insights into the broader impact of piracy on your company,economically and otherwise, and the digital content industry?


    MBC Group: Legitimate platforms invest heavily in licensing or creating fresh content; they operate a number business models to achieve a certain return on their investment. This return can come from advertising or from the monthly fee that customers pay to access the content. The content can also be sublicensed to other legitimate platforms.

    Pirates make this content available for free without any licensing fees or costs incurred. They then try to make money by advertising around the content. This would limit the audience reach of the legitimate platforms and hence limit the addressable customers that could be served advertisements or be acquired as subscribers, which could have a negative impact on the content investment ROI. Subsequently, piracy can impact the investment that legitimate platforms put into making the content available.

    OSN: Content piracy is a formidable adversary for broadcasters and distributors of content across the globe and is particularly severe in the MENA region. It is estimated that anywhere between $500 and $750 million are lost due to content piracy every year by Pay TV operators and streaming services in the MENA region alone. Despite these alarming figures, piracy is often met with leniency from regulators in the region, who suffer from a lack of resources, and so this results in a lack of awareness of the consequences for pirate operators.

    Regrettably viewers often also lack knowledge of the illegality of the activity. Whilst in other regions we have started to see serious penalties being imposed on end-users, this has not yet become common practice in the region.

    As technology evolves, pirates adapt swiftly, making it easier for them to operate behind proxy services, and making it harder for the enforcement of the law. Additionally, high-speed broadband is increasing its penetration in the region, allowing illegal streaming to rise.

    In the face of these challenges, legal frameworks do struggle to keep pace with technological advancements, leaving legal operators grappling with outdated regulations and slow enforcement mechanisms.


    How is your partnership with ACE enhancing your efforts to fight digital piracy?


    MBC Group: Through our partnership with ACE, we can go after the main operations that power this piracy brand and help in stopping the piracy source that is feeding all these domains. Having on-the-ground operations was only possible through the ACE partnership. This partnership is an integral part of our anti-piracy strategy here at MBC Group.

    OSN: Our partnership with ACE has been instrumental in our ongoing battle against piracy, as they offer invaluable support across multiple fronts added great value to our efforts in fighting piracy in many ways. One of the key benefits has been our enhanced ability to engage with major global social media platforms, internet service providers (ISPs), and hosting companies. This strategic alliance has empowered us to effectively target and dismantle infringing material associated with OSN, delivering significant blows to illicit content distribution.  With the regional support of ACE, we have witnessed successful disruption of some of the major illegal streaming sites and supply of illegal devices through these enforcement actions.

    Our collaboration with ACE stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to combat piracy.


    How do you educate consumers about the negative impacts of digital piracy and the importance of supporting content creators?


    MBC Group: We work with different organizations and government bodies to educate people about the impact and consequences of consuming content on piracy platforms. Through active campaigns, we encourage customers to consume content on legitimate content creators’ platforms.

    OSN: OSN takes piracy of our content very seriously. Our dedication to combatting piracy has been unwavering for over a decade, reflecting our commitment to protecting our content and the interests of viewers in the MENA region.

    OSN employs a multifaceted approach, combining cutting-edge technology, with strategic enforcement initiatives. Our work mainly focuses on eliminating the disruption of OSN channels and VOD online services through our in-house anti-piracy tool.  In addition to our technology solution, we deploy on-the-ground enforcement actions in collaboration with local authorities to combat illegal activities. Regular market inspections in key markets disrupt the supply chain and the local enforcement agencies help to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

    Due to the size of the piracy market, we adopt a targeted approach that matches our then-current business needs and priorities. By focusing our efforts in this manner, we can gauge the effectiveness of interventions and identify areas where there has been the largest impact. OSN also seizes these opportunities to incentivize pirate suppliers to become legitimate dealers, a program that has yielded very positive results.

    From a consumer perspective, OSN has run a campaign titled ‘Do the Right Thing’ to create more awareness and inform on the consequences of piracy use, which include the risk to personal and financial data files being leaked or stolen, the possibility of malicious software or malware being installed on personal PCs, and the possibility of breaches in security of all data on PCs and social media accounts. By shedding light on these dangers, we hope to encourage users to make informed choices.

    OSN will continue to work to combat piracy in all its forms and will remain dedicated to protecting the rights in the content that we legally bring to the MENA market.

    This article was first published on ACE