Anti-pirates of the region
David Butorac, CEO of OSN, is certainly a man on a mission. His firm, along with a coalition of antipiracy regulators, has shut down 15 channels that were violating copyright regulations. Be very afraid
David Butorac, the nononsense CEO of OSN, is in a combative mood. Buoyed by the recent success of the fledgling Broadcast Satellite Anti-Piracy Coalition, he is taking no prisoners.
“There were a number of organisations that were simply stealing content, creating channels and then taking satellite capacity to distribute it,” he says. “The operators of these channels were taking content from DVDs and content that they had acquired, but not licensed, and turning them into movie channels. In league with the satellite industry, we removed 15 of them.”
The coalition, which was formed in March this year and includes OSN, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPA), the MBC Group, du, STN, JMC, Nilesat and Arabsat, said previously that the channels were taken off air as a result of “the continuous monitoring and reporting of intellectual property infringements”. The channels – Al- Mamnou, Ahl Masar, CDC Cinema, CRT Cinema, Homos TV, I-Movies, Hollywood Stars, Kit Kat, Majestic 2, Mega Cinema, Nessma Al Khadra, QTV, Scope TV Movies, Time Movies and Top Movies – were found to be responsible for more than 700 infringements of intellectual property rights since 1 January this year. All were for studio-owned movies.
“Piracy manifests itself in many different ways,” says Butorac. “There is pure theft piracy, there’s redistribution piracy – whether it’s through IP means or through other broadcast – that we need to be vigilant of. As an industry we are seeking to educate consumers about legitimate versus illegitimate broadcasters, whether they are distributed through IP or through traditional satellite methods. There’s also distribution piracy for platforms that perhaps have legitimate licences in their home markets but are actively pursuing sales in markets where they don’t have licences. The most obvious manifestation of that is some of the South Asian platforms that are selling to the South Asian communities in the Middle East in contravention of rights that we own. So, as an industry we have to continue to be vigilant. We monitor all of the satellite broadcasts and where we find piracy we will first seek to educate, and if we can’t educate we’ll work with the relevant authorities to exercise the law.”
So far this year, alongside the removal from air of the 15 channels, a number of raids have taken place on dealers and distributors in the Middle East that have resulted in the arrests of people selling illegal platforms.
However, with piracy a many-headed Hydra, is the industry fighting a losing battle, especially when taken together with a general unwillingness by consumers to pay for content?
“As an industry, if we took that view then we might as well just shut the doors and walk away, and of course we’re not prepared to do that,” replies Butorac. “Consumers would never seek to buy a stolen television set or a stolen car, so we effectively need to educate them as to the value of stolen i ntellectual property. Ultimately, it is an issue for markets globally. Somebody has to pay for the content. Somebody has to pay for the continued expansion of broadcast investments to create premium content, and it’s quite heartening that at the moment, globally, the investment in premium content is accelerating not decelerating.”
He adds: “If you look at the investments that are being made by traditional broadcasters in premium television content, there has never been greater investments. And if you actually look at the calibre of people that are now doing television content, big name Hollywood actors, directors and producers are now working the television sphere. Traditional media is in rude health. The suggestion that traditional broadcasting – be it the advertising funded freeto-air or subscription funded pay-TV – is a broken model is quite wrong. Our business can continue to be vibrant but piracy is one of those issues that we will need to be ever vigilant for. What we need to do in this region is to ensure that the authorities take a similar view on intellectual property crime, as authorities in some of the more developed markets have taken.” Is this happening? “We need to fight on a regulatory and legal level, and for that we need the assistance of governments to do so,” says Butorac. “We are seeking to educate the governments of the region and we get great support from many of the governments, particularly in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia, and also from a legal perspective. The police have undertaken a number of raids and we anticipate that will carry on. Like in all jurisdictions, it’s a fight that we will have to fight on many fronts, but we have a combination of technology, the support of governments in terms of recognising intellectual property crime, and the coalition of broadcasters and broadcast industries. We will continue to fight and will continue to have successes.”
Don’t mess with them…David Butorac and his team take intellectual property crimes very seriously