by Content Cafe — 15 December 2022
Industry voices is an interview series commissioned by Content Cafe profiling screen industry professionals in Australia and abroad to get their take on content piracy. Is content protection improving? How do we stop piracy? How does Australia compare to the rest of the world? These are some of the questions we are exploring with leaders across the content industry.
Welcome Neil, please introduce yourself.
I first moved to Asia in the late 1980’s as a Royal Hong Kong Police officer finishing my service in Special Branch. I then began working in an executive position within the IP protection field with the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), the Motion Picture Association (MPA), the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) and now the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), where I am currently responsible for content protection in the Asia Pacific region.
Who are ACE’s members and how are they impacted by piracy?
To combat criminally syndicated piracy services, our industry needs to work collaboratively and collectively as part of a global network. This call for action motivated the MPA to form ACE in 2017. The current ACE governing board members are Amazon, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix Studios LLC, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Warner Bros. In total, there are currently 52 global members of ACE, and we continue to grow our membership on a regular basis. A full list of ACE members can be found here.
What are some of the biggest threats that ACE is dealing with right now?
Our approach is to be data-driven and to focus on those piracy services identified as the “worst of the worst.” In addition to targeting the world’s largest streaming piracy and IPTV piracy services, ACE is working to close down the global top video hosting services as well as disrupting the operation of video hosts at infrastructure and intermediary levels. We take a holistic approach by targeting both operators as well as their content sources and infrastructure; a challenge we face is lack of KYBC (“know your business customer”) procedures amongst intermediaries. Currently it isn’t difficult to stay anonymous on the Internet even while running a global pirate commercial enterprise, simply because intermediaries do not know or ask who their business customers are. Private individuals are entitled to personal privacy, of course, but when you run a business that takes people’s money and sells services, you incur certain obligations to disclose who you are and to obey the law. What’s illegal offline should be illegal online. Online service providers should be able to respond to legitimate civil judicial and law enforcement requests to identify their customers. If they can’t do that, they are enabling illegal activity, and there should be consequences.
“Private individuals are entitled to personal privacy, of course, but when you run a business that takes people’s money and sells services, you incur certain obligations to disclose who you are and to obey the law. What’s illegal offline should be illegal online.”
Having worked in many markets around the world, including Australia, how does Australia’s response to piracy compare to other countries?
Following years of successful criminal enforcement and civil litigation, there are noticeably fewer locally operated piracy services in Australia. Piracy websites operated outside of Australia are nevertheless still being accessed, but fortunately there is a gold standard judicial site blocking mechanism available in the country to rights holders.
What TV shows are you watching and recommending to friends at the moment?
It is great to see Asian stories now being exported and enjoyed by audiences around the world. Not just from mature markets like Japan and Korea, but now from Indonesia with The Night Comes for Us, and the Philippines Doll House and elsewhere in SE Asia.
What’s the last great film you saw?
Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis.”
What excites you about the future of your industry?
Collaboration. From an industry standpoint, collaboration is the key to unlocking the true potential of what our collective industry can do in the fight against digital piracy. Our industry faces the same threats that, more often than not, manifest themselves in the same illicit websites and piracy services. Collaboration allows for collective protection with multiple parties benefiting from the economies of scale and combining resources.
We are already seeing great examples of government-to-government and government-to-Industry collaboration with the joint Interpol & Korean government’s “Stop Online Piracy” initiative, of which ACE is a funder and working committee member. ACE also has full-time staff embedded within the US government’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington DC, as well as the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) within the City of London Police Constabulary. Collaboration also enables ACE members and the local content industry to speak to government officials with one voice regarding the need to better prioritize copyright enforcement. And governments are beginning to listen.
Cameron Mitchell, CEO of National Association of Cinema Operators
Bridget Fair, CEO, Free TV Australia
Liz Bales, CEO, The Industry Trust for IP Awareness
Scott Lorson, CEO, Fetch TV
The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is the world’s leading coalition dedicated to protecting the dynamic legal market and reducing digital piracy. Driven by a comprehensive approach to addressing piracy through criminal referrals, civil litigation and cease-and-desist operations, ACE has achieved many successful global enforcement actions against illegal streaming services and sources of unauthorized content and their operators. Drawing upon the collective expertise and resources of all members and reinforced by the content protection operations of the Motion Picture Association, ACE protects the creativity and innovation that drive the global growth of core copyright and entertainment industries. The current governing board members for ACE are: Amazon, Apple TV+, NBCUniversal, Netflix Studios LLC, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Warner Bros. Charles Rivkin is Chairman of ACE and the Motion Picture Association. Visit ACE: www.alliance4creativity.com