AEPOC, the European Association for the Protection of Encrypted Works and Services, sees increased necessity to improve protection of media content and digital services against piracy.
"The new omnipresent availability of digital content and with this the new ways of earning revenues call for new approaches in protection - including technical, legislative, political as well as more effective application of law enforcement", says Anthony Dixon, Legal Director and Company Secretary of Pace Micro Technology plc. Dixon hosted the AEPOC panel session "Content Everywhere - Piracy Everywhere or New Opportunities?" at Mediacast London which was followed by an international audience of 120 media industry and press visitors.
Anthony Dixon discussed with four representatives of APEOC and its members the key issues being addressed, explaining status, new achievements and upcoming needs in the fight against piracy. Dixon kicked-off the discussion highlighting examples of co-operation between broadcast operators, technology providers and manufacturers together with national legislators in order to create an environment that satisfies consumer demands for content viewing whilst discouraging content piracy. However there have also been setbacks in this process such as the recent ruling by the US courts against the imposition of the FCC "broadcast flag" in the US. Davide Rossi, Secretary General of AEPOC commented further regarding the broadcast flag - a DRM specification for securing broadcast TV content: "The broadcast flag's courtroom defeat, risks to halt for a period of time this particular improvement of protection against piracy and illicit use for now. It is a setback for the US market and a negative signal for worldwide content owners and broadcasters. AEPOC therefore sees an even greater need to strengthen actions against pirates and maintain supporting initiatives such as the FCC rule".
"AEPOC has restricted power since it cannot intervene commercially but it is the common voice of 35 leading European companies in the sector of digital media. AEPOC's work consists in identifying the problems concerning piracy and providing this information to industry circles, European legislative as well as regional authorities including law enforcement staff", Rossi continued. "Piracy is never an opportunity but a concrete threat to our economic order. The innovation and business which has been created in Europe needs to be protected, as well as the confidence of innovative companies and their investors. Piracy destroys investors' confidence - and if there is no confidence, there will be no growth. This is why we need clear rules for the economic playing field. AEPOC does not inhibit innovation, however we point out that everything which is technically possible must not necessarily be legal. Therefore AEPOC demands a new, enhanced European directive condemning also the private use and possession of illicit devices or software and every single unauthorised access to encrypted works and services as piracy", Rossi concluded.
Christine Maury Panis, Executive Vice President, General Counsel of Viaccess - France Telecom continued the analysis of the current legal possibilities: "Our activities go far beyond legislation. Yet we see substantial achievements in law enforcement in France, where for example the intrusion into company networks has lead to severe sentences including imprisonment and high penalties. Also, working with the European customs has proved to be increasingly effective. Similar to the fight against counterfeit perfumes and luxury goods in the Nineties, we achieved increasing awareness of the customs to recognise pirate boxes and be thus able to enforce the law and stop illicit trade at the different European tiers. However, legislation in areas like Asia and the Middle East remains a challenge". Maury Panis gave an example of successful industry politics against piracy: "During a top level industry summit between Korea and France, the French representatives achieved with the help of an ombudsman to blacklist Korean set-top box manufacturers that provide pirate boxes to the European and Middle East markets. Digital operators in Europe now increasingly work with information provided by AEPOC members in order to exclude set-top box manufactures connected to cases of piracy from bidding processes."
Simon Oliver, Legal Counsel of NDS underlined the view point of the content providers and right holders: "With the multitude of new distribution channels like IPTV, wireless networks and mobile TV we need to ensure that content is protected throughout the entire distribution chain. Otherwise content owners will not be compelled to provide their premium content anymore. A way to constantly safeguard security is the competition in the technology market. Therefore we need improved standards, as developed by industry initiatives like the open specification of the Secure Video Processor (SVP) alliance. Besides standardisation and on-going technological progress, we need to change people's attitude towards piracy - some still seem to look at it as an academic challenge rather than a criminal act. However, the UK and the US have also seen very aggressive law enforcement actions against piracy."
Andrew Curle, Vice President Quality Assurance of Irdeto Access gave the perspective from the consumer point of view: "Our key principle in effectively fighting piracy consists in making life tough for pirates and easy for the consumers. While integrating technology and legal protection we need to put the consumer first: providing convenient, easy-to-use and legitimate means to consume any content, via any network, on any device - and consumers will be willing to pay for it. Business models therefore must offer more flexibility and choice than pirate alternatives. Legitimate consumer needs - for example the possibility for expatriate people to have access to their national channels - have to be made obtainable in a legal way. Also this - together with all the above-mentioned actions - will frustrate the pirates".
The next AEPOC meeting will be held in Baden-Baden, Germany, on June 14th 2005 hosted by AEPOC member WELA Electronic.