Content industry and government agencies are working together to crush online thieves.
FREE stuff is like sugar, which attracts ants in droves. In the digital content world, that is one of the reasons why people resort to piracy because the content is “free”.
From music to movies, books, software, broadcasts, even over-the-top (OTT) services, the pirate websites have them all, and this has caused huge losses to the local creative content industry.
Do you know that all copyright-based industries contribute to the country’s economy every year? Our creative industries and the people reap the benefits from creative content, but first, there must be an environment or ecosystem which respects the rights of content creators, with zero tolerance for piracy.
LIKE ROBBING A BANK
Media Prima Television Networks Chief Executive Officer Johan Ishak says pirating intellectual property content is like robbing a bank.
He explains that with Media Prima Bhd’s various platforms, there is a lot of content that can go digital. “So when piracy happens on digital, it will link to accessibility, which means the easier the content is to be accessed through digital, the easier it is to be pirated.
“Previously, we were worried about our content being pirated through physical methods such as the DVD but that is no longer the case. In the case of pirated DVDs, the person needs to have a place to burn the programme or songs onto discs before selling them. That takes a lot of effort.
“But, nowadays, one can be a pirate without going through all that. Digitalisation, even though it improves people’s lives, in terms of consumption of content, is also damaging when people use it wrongly.”
Piracy poses a serious impact on the ability to create content economically. Johan says Media Prima’s content creation is funded by advertisers and also, content purchasers.
“The proliferation of pirated content sets to undo this as content is freely provided without any returns to the content creators and talents.
Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia does not condone the act and considers people who commit it as thieves, regardless of the medium.
Its chairman, Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar, says pirated content can be referred to a particular content where the owner’s intellectual property rights have been infringed, “when no approval for use, distribution or aggregation of the content was obtained from the rightful owner either by way of any kind of payment or licensing.
“Even when someone legitimately downloads a video or song by paying the fee, that person is not allowed to share it with others as the video is only meant for his or her personal use. Because once you start sharing it, you’re considered a pirate,” says Ahmad Izham.
Even television networks have been buying less content because the revenue is not coming back inside the ecosystem. Ahmad Izham, who is also Primeworks Studio’s chief executive officer, says clients are very picky about content now.
If it is available online for free or has been pirated, they do not buy it. “As a result, we lose the income from there. It’s sad because the creators could not continue with the next season of their drama.”
For local OTT streaming service Tonton, its director Airin Zainul says the company has implemented a systematic approach to copyright protection for its digital media content.
“Through Digital Rights Management, protection over the content is implemented by embedding a code that prevents unauthorised redistribution of content, and even restricts the ways users can download the content they’ve purchased.
“The software is encrypted, so the system works in a way that even when the user has downloaded a video, he won’t be able to share it. They can download it to watch at a later time, but it can only be viewed on the Tonton platform as the video will not be saved on their devices. Even if they had screenshot the video, the image will be blacked out,” she says.
Airin further adds that each media or broadcasting company must have the right tools to ensure their content is not easily downloadable or copied.
As much as it is wrong for the person who is uploading and posting it, Airin adds that the person who is consuming is just at fault, “as it’s contributing to the cycle of piracy.”
As a media house, Media Prima has its own internal team to monitor piracy activities. Johan says that whenever they detect a piracy, a report is made to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
“The authorities have been helpful in taking down the websites. However, the government should be more proactive in taking action so that the people do not take this issue lightly,” he says.
Johan further states that organised piracy that produces or steals content and puts it on their websites actually get revenue. “The number of advertisement banners on their websites, including some prominent brands, are automatically inserted because of viewerships of that video.
“Usually the brand owner just pays Google or Facebook to place their ads, and the website’s system will push the ads to appear in videos that reaches a certain viewership number. The ads placement process is basically automated.
“Social media sites like Facebook and YouTube need to put in place a mechanism to monitor or detect if the video is pirated. Although they are doing a great job in terms of auto detection for music copyright, the video detection is not as robust yet,” says Johan.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism’s principal assistant director Aminuddin Muhammad stressed that under Malaysia’s Copyright Act 1987, section 43A(1), any person who operates an audio visual recording device in a screening room to record any film in whole or in part shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine of not less than RM10,000 and not more than RM100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.
Under the same Act, section 43A(2), any person attempting the offence is also guilty under the law.
“An attempt can also be that person lifting up his or her cellphone, even when that person has not even recorded anything,” said Aminuddin.
“So I would like to warn moviegoers not to even take a selfie inside the cinema because if you are caught lifting up your phone during the movie, it’s already considered as an attempt to record.”
A clear example would be the latest saga by Akademi Fantasia 2016 graduate Ara Johari who has come under fire from netizens for recording part of the new Avengers: Infinity War movie in a cinema. Ara uploaded on her Instastory a brief video of the Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios’ latest blockbuster.
To make matters worse, Ara defiantly stated in the caption to her video, “It’s my right! If you think I’ve given a spoiler, don’t follow me, catch this film in a cinema.”
Ara subsequently apologised on Instastory, but said that she merely “captured a spoiler” and not the whole movie.
Meanwhile, Aminuddin says his department had also taken down websites with pirated content.
“Although we are able to block their URLs, eventually these pirates will keep on coming up with different names and domains. It is hard to catch that person as they usually do not use their real names to create the websites. Even the domains they are using are mostly overseas, which can be easily bought by anyone.”
Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) views the rampant piracy of OTT content over the Internet as very serious. Its assistant director (strategic and technical) Zulkarnain Muhammad says content owners have exclusive rights to their creation for 50 years and another 50 years after their death, which follows the Bern Convention.
“In Malaysia, awareness on digital piracy and the culture of respecting people’s property are still low, hence the piracy culture,” he said.
Content owners can register their creations at the MyIPO. “For the benefit of content owners, we have a voluntary notifications system where they can come to MyIPO and will be given a cert for court purposes,” he says, adding that today, awareness in patent and trademark applications has increased five to 10 per cent.
Zulkarnain also feels broadcasters need to have a joint effort or code of conduct to intercept illegal uploading of digital content. “We need technology to counter the digital piracy. To prevent live streaming from cinema to Facebook, for instance, some countries are using jammers that can stop live streaming,” he says.
MyIPO has been taking initiatives to increase awareness among the public, including students, on digital piracy. “We do a lot of roadshows, seminars and talks to the media on this issue. We also have the IP Summer Camp involving seven boarding schools and 15 schools with 200 students each. It’s better to educate at the school level; we learnt this from Japan,” he says.
We may not be able to get rid of piracy but everyone has to do their part in reducing the problem. Airin urges users to think before they consume illegal content. The use of animation in public service announcements and celebrities is also great in capturing public attention.
She says continuous education and awareness programmes are being done to show how piracy is affecting the livelihood of producers and people who create the dramas, movies and TV shows.
Besides the government, CMCF is also working to raise awareness on the damage that piracy can bring to the content industry, working with partners such as Dimsum, Astro, Telekom Malaysia, Media Prima, iflix and the Motion Picture Association (MPA), as well as the MCMC.
“In October 2017, the CMCF facilitated the launch of the Infringing Website List (IWL) initiative for Malaysia, with stakeholders from the local creative and advertising communities, including Media Prima, Astro, MPA, Centre for Content Promotion and Media Specialists Association.
“The main aim of the IWL is to cut off advertising revenue to major piracy websites in the country in an effort to combat digital piracy of copyrighted content such as music, films, software, broadcasts and books,” Ahmad Izham says.
“More importantly, users need to understand the economic impact on content creators directly, and also indirectly on a country’s economy, as this could also paint a picture of the seriousness of content piracy,” he concluded.