11/01/2013 (press release: DPRi) // London, United Kingdom // DPRi
Trusted global brands Apple and Google have been exposed as making available for download mobile applications that publish pirated content to Internet users in the Ukraine, undermining sustained measures by leading Ukrainian media groups and public sector organisations to eradicate online piracy in the country.
Acting as conduits for pirated content – thus fueling its consumption and worsening a situation that has seen the Ukraine branded an incubator for the illegal industry – the marketplaces of the two U.S. brands – the Apple AppStore and Google Play – continue to host offending mobile apps alongside legitimate content publishers that have the correct licensing agreements in place. Unwittingly putting users at risk of consuming pirated content and harming the future health of creative industries’ and the content ecosystem, the revelation comes at a time when Ukrainian efforts are being ramped up in the quest to eradicate the publication and consumption of pirated content from the country.
Having been labelled a “foreign priority country” – the worst possible classification in its annual report on the global protection of U.S. patents, copyrights and other forms of intellectual property rights – by the U.S. Trade Representatives’ office (USTR) in May of this year, key stakeholders in the Ukraine have undertaken a number of initiatives. Increasing research, political lobbying, media group content partnerships and multi-industry discussions within the country have set out Ukraine’s mission to strangle online piracy, however efforts are being thwarted by Apple and Google’s lack of responsibility being taken for mobile applications hosted on their marketplaces that make pirated content easily accessible for Internet users.
As consumers elect to access content via their mobile devices, online piracy has rapidly become a multichannel problem, outgrowing the traditional desk and laptop accessed websites publishing pirated content. A number of applications – both free to download and paid for – on Google Play and Apple Appstore marketplaces are linked to publishing content without the necessary licensing agreements including LazyEXua, EX.ua Cinema – linked to Ex.ua, the biggest pirate website in Ukraine that boasts 5.5m unique visitors pcm and 800,000 viewings of video content daily – ??? films online, EX Plus, and Kartina TV. While legitimate content publishers meet requirements of international rightholders and invest major resources to ensure protected platforms for content placement, publishers of pirated content avoid such investment, exposing users to multiple risks.
Over twenty five organisations – including media groups and publishers – have publicly affirmed their commitment to the fight against online piracy in Ukraine, making progress in terms of exposing online advertising malpractices and forcing the closure of websites offering pirated content. The Ukrainian anti piracy community however, feels that domestic efforts are being hindered by what it sees as Apple and Google shirking responsibility and hiding behind policy small print governing their marketplaces.
“It is obvious that certain Apple and Android mobile apps available for download are publishing pirated content. While Apple and Google take a strong stance on content considered inappropriate such as porn, both brands are unwilling to expand their remit to include content that breaches IP rights.
“Here in Ukraine, we are being made the scapegoat for online piracy and while we recognise and are acting on the problem within our country, we are increasingly fighting policy shortsightedness of Google and Apple regarding piracy enabling within their own marketplaces. While publicly committed to the fight against online piracy, both brands are failing to take responsibility for mobile applications that sit within their marketplaces alongside legitimate content publishers,” explained Pavel (Paul) Mykolyuk – Director of the law firm Vindex, industry expert and key member of the recently formed Clear Sky content partnership.
The global anti-piracy movement has gained traction during 2013, with Ad networks including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL signing up to the Best Practices Guidelines for Ad Network to Address Piracy and Counterfeiting, laid down by the White House’s Office of the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), and Hollywood backed FACT forcing closure of a number of pirate websites, however the measures adopted by Western organisations have been deemed insufficient owing to their failure to address global advertising malpractices and multiplatform publication of pirated content beyond their own borders.
With policies that require IP rights holders to bring their attention to copyright infringement, Apple and Google are acting according to their policies by allowing such mobile applications to exist on their marketplaces. Consequently, stakeholders in the anti piracy movement in the Ukraine are calling for a total shift in policy, major investment and transparency across online content production, publication and consumption to bring about meaningful changes.
Recognising the difficulty for Apple and Google in policing the legality of content of all mobile applications developed for their marketplaces, Mykolyuk added:
“This is not just a concern for Apple and Google, but a problem that requires action from rights owners and Internet users if we are to resolve an issue that sees pirated content being consumed via mobile applications downloaded from legitimate marketplaces.
“There is a distinct lack of accountability when it comes to mobile apps that deliver pirated content to people. In order to bring about real change, we need firm commitment from Apple and Google to review its policies, act upon complaints by rights owners and media groups and importantly, we need rights owners to take proactive measures to ensure they know exactly where their content is being made available. Online piracy is a problem for everyone, and so we need effective collaboration to overcome it.”