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Is Content Piracy via VPNs/Proxies a Victimless Crime?

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  • Media & Entertainment

Many viewers think of content piracy as a victimless crime, but it’s certainly not for the people in the industry who lose their jobs every year because of it.

According to the Global Innovation Policy Center’s report, “Impacts of Digital Video Piracy on the U.S. Economy,” 560,000 Americans lose their jobs due to piracy every year, and the U.S. economy loses at least $29.2 billion in revenue each year. The rest of the world is feeling the negative impacts of piracy too.

  • Qatar’s premier OTT broadcaster, beIN Sport laid off 18% of its workforce due to continuous piracy.
  • Portugal’s broadcast sector loses around €140 million every year due to piracy.
  • India’s OTT industry is losing up to 30% in revenue every year due to rampant piracy.

Piracy takes many forms, but a significant type of piracy is driven by the use of VPNs and DNS proxies to access geographically restricted content. This is called geo-piracy and it can have serious financial consequences for rightsholders, content producers and OTT providers that rely on a territorially-based business model for their revenue and to fund production budgets.

Hijacked Residential IPs – A Dangerous New Tactic by VPN Providers

Ironically, the people who use VPNs to bypass territorial restrictions are also often victims themselves. That’s because millions of users worldwide have unwittingly had their residential IP addresses hijacked by “free” VPN providers (through a complicated term of service agreement), and sold to the highest bidder – usually other VPNs who offer these addresses as a premium “undetectable” service.

The dangerous fact is that anyone can purchase these residential IPs and use them for an array of malicious activities, beyond geo-piracy. People are responsible for any activity coming through their IP address, whether they know about it or not, so any use of their residential IP for malicious purposes leaves them liable.

How to Stop Geo-piracy and Protect Content Value

But, even when faced with all these facts, there will always be people who dismiss using VPNs for geo-piracy as “no harm, no foul,” especially when VPN providers exploit “influencers” to legitimize it. Case in point: sports podcaster Tony Kornheiser. He advertises VPNs on his show, specifically for the purpose of bypassing territorial restrictions to access live sporting events.

But if the industry can’t win in the court of public opinion, what can be done to stop it? Short answer: implement GeoGuard’s VPN and proxy detection.

Our third-party tested, “Hollywood Studio Approved” solution detects when a person is using a VPN or DNS proxy to spoof their location in order to access geographically restricted content. It’s used by rightsholders and OTT broadcasters worldwide to stop geo-piracy and to protect the value of their content.

To combat the hijacked residential IP issue, GeoGuard’s VPN/proxy detection solution has been integrated with several leading CDNs, including Akamai and Amazon AWS. This type of integration enables the OTT broadcaster to do a secondary check on a person’s IP when the stream starts. It detects the change from the residential IP used to access the stream, to the VPN’s datacenter IP used to deliver the stream. Once the change is detected, the stream is stopped.

The verdict is in: accessing territorially restricted content via VPNs/Proxies is NOT a victimless crime but the good news is it can be stopped. You just need the right solution.

If you’d like to learn more about GeoGuard and how we can help you protect your content, contact us at solutions@geocomply.com.