During the summer of 2017, several of the largest entertainment industry companies in the world teamed up to create a new anti-piracy coalition.
The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) brought together well-known Hollywood outfits including Disney, Warner Bros, NBCUniversal, media giants such as Sky and BBC, as well as the streaming-based newcomers Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.
This is without a doubt one of the most prominent copyright enforcement groups in history and one with a clear mission. ACE wants to bring a halt to all forms of piracy but with a specific focus on online streaming, which it sees as a major threat to its industry.
The organization has filed several lawsuits in the US, for example, targeting vendors of pirate streaming boxes. This has been quite effective so far, with Dragon Box settling for $14.5 million TickBox TV agreeing to pay $25 million in damages.
However, behind the scenes, there have been many less visible enforcement efforts as well. ACE regularly reaches out to developers who create ‘add-ons’ and ‘builds’ that are specifically designed to access pirated content through streaming boxes, including those running Kodi.
These efforts are not made public by ACE, but the targeted developers sometimes speak about them in public. Last week, for example, when the Hydra9 repository was targeted, among others.
“Some in the community got served ACE letters yesterday, including myself. My letter specifically mentions most of my builds, and the Hydra9 repo,” developer ‘Terror’ informed people on Telegram, sharing a cease and desist letter.
“I have made so many friends in this community and the Hydra9 team has been the highlight of my time making builds. I will likely continue as a skinner/teacher only, after I’m done dealing with ACE,” he added.
The letter in question is similar to those that have gone out to many other developers since 2017. As can be seen below, it comes with a rather impressive list of logos from entertainment industry companies, to which Discovery Inc., Channel 5, and Telefe have yet to be added.
It appears that these efforts have been quite successful but thus far ACE hasn’t said much about them in public. To find out more, we asked the organization whether it could share any data on how many of these requests it has sent out over the past two years.
While we didn’t get any exact figures from ACE, which clearly doesn’t want to give away too much, the group said that a “significant” number of developers and site operators cooperated after being notified.
“ACE has sought and obtained voluntary cooperation from a significant number of owners, operators, and developers of sites, add-ons, and services that facilitate piracy,” ACE spokesperson Richard VanOrnum told us.
ACE targets people throughout the world and says it prioritizes voluntary measures over lawsuits. Through these efforts, it hopes to boost the legal market. Thus far, the media companies behind the group are happy with the results.
“Our members are pleased that the overwhelming majority of owners, operators, and developers of sites, add-ons, and services that facilitate copyright theft voluntarily comply with copyright law upon contact with ACE representatives,” VanOrnum tells us.
“We will execute more planned global actions along these lines and look to continue our success protecting creators around the world,” he adds.
If a cease and desist order is ignored, legal action remains an option. While ACE hasn’t shied away from that in the past, it aims to address issues out of court where possible.
Cease and desist letters are only part of its strategy though. ACE also seeks cooperation from many other players in the ecosystem, including advertising networks, payment processors, cyberlockers, domain name registrars and registries, search engines, online marketplaces, and social media services, to name a few.
ACE hopes to promote legally available content while addressing illegal add-ons and streaming boxes. However, it also has its eyes set on other streaming services, including apps and websites.
“We are continuously reviewing our strategy and will consider new outreach and enforcement efforts where appropriate,” VanOrnum tells us, again, without giving away any concrete targets.
The group does explain that it has a comprehensive “piracy reduction plan” which tries to incorporate all the major streaming threats.
While the early signs suggest that this plan is paying off, work is far from done yet. New investigations are being launched on a regular basis, which means that the cease and desist letter Hydra9 received, was certainly not the last.