Telegram Web: Napster moment for online video and music platforms in India as piracy skyrockets in lockdown

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Online video and music-on-demand platforms, which saw a huge jump in viewers during the lockdown, are seeing their thunder stolen by rampant hacking, especially on encrypted messaging platforms like Telegram and WhatsApp, and the deep dark web.

Telegram saw hacking on its platform jump 1092% or about 11 times during the lockdown, while the internet and mobile as a whole saw a 348% increase, according to data shared by Markscan, a company that works with the entertainment industry to fight piracy. YouTube saw a 42% increase.

“Piracy is a growing concern for creators and publishers. With the lockdown brought on by the pandemic, there has certainly been some pirating of our content, ”said Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO of ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms. “In a situation like this, pirating content behind a paywall backs off OTT players by directly attacking the business as potential consumers download and existing consumers see the pirated content.”

During the lockdown, experts said, viewers were denied new content. There were no new episodes, movie releases, or sporting events. As a result, many of them turned to pirated content stolen from advertising or subscription video streaming platforms.

The ecosystem’s ability to fight theft has also been affected.

“Hacking, especially during the lockdown, has increased. The ecosystem’s ability to tackle pirated content has also taken a huge hit. There has been an increase in delays. The capacity of ISPs has been severely compromised. This is still the case to some extent, ”said Abhishek Dhoreliya, founder of Markscan.

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ENCRYPTED PLATFORMS – A LEGAL BLACK HOLE

Experts say encrypted platforms make it much easier to share pirated and illegal content, especially at a time when cinemas are closed and releases are digital. Hackers and hackers steal content from digital platforms and share it directly or through links on encrypted messaging apps, including Telegram.

WhatsApp groups are also known for sharing links to websites hosting pirated content. However, the scale is much smaller due to file sharing limitations. Since law enforcement does not have access to these encrypted platforms, link removal is often slow and manual as the owners themselves browse these groups.

“Unlike global content, Telegram is a huge source of Indian pirated content. Its characteristics make it an attractive platform for hackers. It’s a huge problem for Indian content, ”said Dhoreliya of Markscan. “WhatsApp only has signs or links to follow for pirated content – given the limitation of the WhatsApp platform, they cannot have any content. This is also not ideal, but the Traffic signs are a lesser evil than the pirated content itself.

“Hacking, especially during the lockdown, has increased. The ecosystem’s ability to deal with pirated content has also been severely affected. The turnaround time has increased. The capacity of ISPs has been severely compromised. It still is to a certain extent ”

– Abhishek Dhoreliya, founder of Markscan

Telegram, which is a UK-based encrypted messaging application founded in 2013 by Russian brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, allows the exchange of files up to 1.5 GB. Its supergroups can accommodate up to 200,000 each member and channels that can broadcast to unlimited audiences. It has 400 million monthly active users worldwide.

Telegram has made it clear on its website that all Telegram chats and group chats are private between their participants and that it does not process any requests relating to them. However, he added that if the publicly available Telegram channels infringe the content, the copyright owner or an agent authorized to act on the owner’s behalf can submit complaints to the platform.

Telegram did not respond to ET’s specific questions about the industry’s accusation that it was not doing much to control hacking on the platform.

WhatsApp said it is a private messaging service where the vast majority of conversations are 1-1 or in small groups. “We prevent the mass distribution of content by banning accounts that engage in mass messaging and have reasonable limits on the size of groups and files that people share,” he said in a comment. by email.

PIRACY, A SHAPING MONSTER

While the recent lockdown may have made hackers bolder and consumers more receptive, the problem has been around for several years, described by many as akin to Hydra, the multi-headed water snake monster in Greek mythology. Anyone attempting to decapitate the hydra discovered that as soon as one head was severed, two more heads emerged from the new wound.

“The piracy is huge. It takes us two years to create original content and it takes less than 12 hours to be on a hacked site. Monetization won’t keep pace if you produce high quality content, ”said Gautam Talwar, Director of Content, MX Player. “We’re blocking one, three more pop ups. It is impossible to monitor to a point where we can control it. ”

MX Player is owned by Times Internet (TIL), the digital arm of The Times Group, which publishes the Economic Times

“The investments we make in original content are huge. When our customers are stolen from us by Telegram, WhatsApp, BitTorrent, it becomes a huge problem. Then customers go in that direction to get content illegally. It’s a waste of money and users, ”said Tushar Vohra, Head of Technology, Zee5.

India’s media and entertainment (M&E) sector reached $ 25.7 billion in 2019, growing 9% from 2018, the FICCI EY report released in March this year said. Without relentless hacking, the industry can grow much faster, experts say. Piracy causes serious loss of monetization income for producers and creators.

“During the lockdown, the number of hacked websites increased dramatically. However, it is important to remember that the situation was precarious even before that, ”said Nitin Tej Ahuja, Managing Director of the Producers Guild of India. “The crux of the matter is that Indians do not view pirated content as theft.”

The sectors most affected by piracy are the live streaming film industry, music and sports, with the exception of the video on demand segment. Unlike before, when pirated content on CDs was found around street corners, it was now widely available on internet platforms, changing websites, and internet cafes with large content catalogs.

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“We are seeing 3 major trends in online hacking: live stream theft, screen recording and account sharing. Of these, the first is more damaging as live streaming is a revenue-generating product. Screen recording as a practice has long been prevalent in India and has also affected the television and film industry, ”a SonyLIV spokesperson said.

The problem of piracy is equally serious for the music industry. According to a digital music study, the music piracy rate stands at 67% in India resulting in an estimated loss of revenue of Rs. 1,500 crore per year. The problem has been compounded by the use of unlicensed music on many short video and messaging applications.

“That’s already a big deal to start with, fueled by the proliferation of video sharing services on social media and the increase in the use of unlicensed content in these apps, which needs to be plugged in as soon as possible. This problem, if not nipped in the bud, will have serious ramifications for the recorded music industry, ”said Blaise Fernandes, President and CEO of Indian Music Industry.

LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY FIGHT

Legal experts say India could face its ‘Napster’ moment and struggle to find a permanent solution to peer-to-peer sharing apps. Napster was a popular peer-to-peer (P2P) Internet file sharing software that helped share digital audio files, usually audio songs. As the software grew in popularity, the company encountered legal difficulties for copyright infringement and eventually closed its doors in 2001.

The platforms work with specialist anti-piracy companies who, in turn, work with search engines, app stores, and brands to reduce the availability and visibility of pirated content, as well as their advertising driven business model. MarkScan said it is putting pressure on Telegram through mobile application platforms such as Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

One of the most powerful tools available to the Indian entertainment industry against pirating websites are the so-called “John Doe” orders, where injunctive relief is provided against websites of unknown people to protect the rights of. intellectual property of the creator of artistic works such as films and songs. . These commands can help internet service providers and web hosting companies remove thousands of links at once, although sometimes they can take a long time to implement.

“Piracy is a problem of supply and demand. Almost the entire piracy ecosystem is found outside of India. The Indian has no jurisdiction over it. Court orders of “John Doe” have a long turnaround time and are easy to circumvent, ”said Dhoreliya of Markscan.

One of the main reasons India struggles to control piracy is that almost the entire pirated content supply ecosystem is outside of India, giving the country options. limited to book legally and deter hackers.

“The judiciary intervened with orders from ‘John Doe’. The need of the hour is for legislation to intervene. In India, no one is punished for pirating content. There are also civil remedies, but the damages awarded are not substantial, ”said Geetanjali Visvanathan, lawyer at Ira Law. She specializes in intellectual property rights.


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