New Hope from an Old Law? Rethinking Television Antipiracy Strategies


Fordham Law alumnus Ray Dowd ’91 co-authored an article on IPTV antipiracy litigation for The Copyright Lawyer magazine.

Copyright lawyers may soon be dusting off an old antipiracy tool. Using a descrambler box to steal cable television became largely a thing of the past when the Federal Communications Act of 1934 (the “FCA”) was held to apply to those infringements. With the growth of IPTV as a revenue source and a corresponding rise in Pay TV piracy, and in light of a recent court decision applying this powerful law to new streaming technology, in-house counsel for television broadcasters and content owners should work with outside counsel to rethink antipiracy and litigation strategies. As new technologies for delivering television and video content over the internet emerge, so too do piracy methods that deprive broadcasters and content owners of revenue. Piracy is traditionally difficult and expensive to identify and police. Law and policing methods have a hard time keeping up with changes in technology and with tech-savvy pirates.

Many content owners have been frustrated with the cost, delay, and burdens associated with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Pirates have moved offshore frustrating teams of lawyers in multiple jurisdictions. A recent Sandvine report found that 6.5% of all U.S. households access illegal television-streaming services each month1. Now that television viewers are cancelling traditional cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming services, it is critical that content producers develop new methods to counteract online piracy to avoid losing revenues. The FCA provides for statutory damages and mandatory legal fees. Our team won a recent victory by successfully applying the FCA to IPTV technology for the first time. Our winning strategy suggests that broadcasters and content owners should consider adopting nimble, cost-efficient antipiracy strategies to maximize revenues.

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