DStv cracks down on piracy kingpins in South Africa

MultiChoice is taking the fight to Internet streaming pirates in South Africa, announcing the arrests of two major players in the past week.

The company describes piracy as a significant threat to local broadcasters and the creative industry as a whole through lost revenue.

It scored two major victories against Internet streaming pirates in the space of a few days in early June 2024.

MultiChoice announced the first arrest on Wednesday, 5 June, following a raid of a Waka TV facility in the Western Cape on 31 May.

It described the individual as a “key suspect” in the operation and thanked Irdeto and the Western Cape’s Cyber Crime Unit for executing the raid.

According to the broadcaster, Waka TV is one of Africa’s most extensive pirate operations.

“This operation represents a major milestone in our relentless commitment to protecting MultiChoice Group’s content and the integrity of our broadcasting services,” it said.

The individual appeared in court on 3 June, facing charges of fraud and contravening the Cybercrimes Act. MultiChoice said additional charges are being considered.

Equipment seized during the raid is currently being analysed, which is expected to provide additional insights into the Waka TV operation.

MultiChoice said more arrests were imminent. It indicated that these would come from investigations into Waka TV resellers.

Shortly after, the broadcaster announced a second arrest on Thursday, 6 June, involving an individual who allegedly sold pirated Internet streaming devices, enabling users to access DStv content.

The suspect allegedly managed several pirate customers and resellers, sold pirate streaming devices, and distributed live TV content, including DStv channels, movies, and series.

They were apprehended on Tuesday, 4 June, and the suspect faces charges of contravening several laws.

They are set to appear at the Kempton Park Magistrate Court after being granted bail of R3,000.

MultiChoice described the raid as a significant blow to the illegal streaming industry in Africa.

According to broadcasting cybersecurity anti-piracy director at MultiChoice-owned Irdeto, Frikkie Jonker, pirate streaming networks pose a significant threat to commercial content distribution.

“Digital piracy, far from being a fringe activity, has become a widespread practice that transcends demographics and geographies, challenging the norms of intellectual property rights,” said Jonker.

“Acts of piracy, ranging from illegal streaming to black-market digital piracy, are forms of copyright infringement that undermine the efforts of content providers and the software industry.”

MultiChoice said content piracy threatens the sustainability of content creators and rights holders.

The broadcaster launched an anti-piracy campaign — Partners Against Piracy (PAP) — to garner support for its fight against piracy.

PAP told MyBroadband that Internet piracy results in direct revenue losses and undermines the integrity of MultiChoice’s distribution models.

“These practices have a broader impact on the creative industry by siphoning off revenues vital for the sustenance and growth of content creators and rights holders,” it added.

It said illegal pirate services don’t only threaten South African and African licence holders but present a global challenge.

MultiChoice said it uses a multifaceted approach to tackling illegal streaming, including using technological measures, collaborating with law enforcement, and implementing legal action.

“The formation of Partners Against Piracy underscores our commitment to collaborative efforts within the industry. However, the dynamic nature of digital piracy poses difficulties in keeping pace with unauthorised services,” it told MyBroadband.

“We continuously invest in advanced technologies and collaborate with industry partners under the Partners Against Piracy banner to enhance our anti-piracy efforts.”

Fines and legal action for pirate viewers

MultiChoice said South Africans who pay for and use pirate services like Waka TV face legal risks, cybersecurity threats, financial loss, and poor service.

Regarding the legal risks, it said viewers could face fines or legal actions for accessing pirated content.

“By subscribing to pirate services, individuals indirectly support illegal activities and criminal networks that profit from piracy, harming the legitimate content industry,” said MultiChoice.

Moreover, pirate streaming services could lack certain security measures, potentially exposing users to cybersecurity threats like malware, viruses, and having their data exposed.

It also noted that although pirate services may seem cheaper, they can lead to financial losses.

“Subscribers risk losing their money if the service is shut down by authorities or if the operators disappear,” said MultiChoice.

Moreover, MultiChoice said these services are unreliable, with customers frequently experiencing poor streaming quality and service interruptions.

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DStv cracks down on piracy kingpins in South Africa