​‘Copyright knights’ volunteer to fight World Cup piracy in Vietnam

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches illegally streamed on different Internet platforms in Vietnam, infringing the copyrights of Vietnam Television, a group of ‘knights’ have dedicated their time and efforts to help the state broadcaster tackle piracy.

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A screen capture of one Facebook account illegally livestreaming a game from FIFA World Cup 2018.
VTV is the exclusive telecast right holder for all 64 matches of Russia 2018 in Vietnam. An undisclosed deal entitles the state broadcaster to the rights of airing the matches on all platforms, from TV and radio to the Internet.

VTV also allows some local partners such as HTV and Viettel TV to share its telecast rights on their own platforms.

But in just three days since the World Cup opening on June 14, the national television has detected more than 700 cases of telecast right violations of the football fiesta on the Internet, according to Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper.

VTV has asked a number of law firms specializing in copyright to take on the issue, whereas some local fans have volunteered to find and report illegal broadcasters of the World Cup matches to the genuine copyright holder.

Risk of losing telecast rights

According to Phan Vu Tuan, head of the Phan Law Vietnam law firm, there are currently three main forms of World Cup piracy in Vietnam.

The most common and also most complicated form involves users downloading software programs for mobiles and computers that allow them to stream international television programs for free.

The second type of copyright pirates is websites that illegally relay matches broadcast on VTV and Viettel TV. Some 28 websites employed this tactic to pirate the broadcast of the tournament’s Russia - Saudi Arabia opener, according to Phan Law Vietnam.

The last method is to illegally live-stream the World Cup matches from VTV via Facebook and YouTube, disguising as VTV affiliates.

Some 100 different accounts were found streaming the Russia - Saudi Arabia game, only minutes into the opening match where the hosts claimed a 5-0 win.

Many Facebook accounts even live-streamed the entire matches, including VTV comment sessions before and after the games.

VTV said it had managed to block some of the violations two to three minutes after detection, but many websites would only change into other IP addresses to continue their copyright infringement, according to Lao Dong.

For instance, the number of Facebook and Youtube accounts illegally live-streaming the Portugal - Spain clash was much bigger than those airing the opening game without permission.

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One YouTube channel with copyright infringement of World Cup 2018 is deleted.

Lao Dong said the widespread piracy could lead to the worst consequence, with FIFA suspending all telecast rights for Russia 2018 in Vietnam.

In 2017, Vietnam Cable Television, or VTVcab, was forced to terminate live broadcasts of the UEFA Champions League due to continued copyright infringement from local websites and TV stations.

“It is very unlikely we will be able to obtain and maintain the rights to broadcast such major international events as the World Cup if blatantly copyright infringement remains rampant,” Tuan asserted.

Voluntary ‘knights’

A group of local football lovers did not want to see FIFA bans the World Cup from being officially broadcast in the country, and have emerged themselves as ‘copyright knights,’ working voluntarily to help VTV combat violations.

The team originally consisted of only 11 members, who work for paid television companies or manage TV-themed social media pages and forums, according to tech news website ICTNews.

As of Saturday, the group expanded into 23 members, who would ‘scour’ the Internet for illegal broadcast during every live matches.

When detecting violations, the group members will report to Google and Facebook or VTV and HTV for intervention.

Their efforts to prevent World Cup piracy have been proven effective, according to ICTNews.

According to a founding member, illegal live-stream sessions of Russia 2018 matches on YouTube and Facebook started to reduce significantly from Saturday.

“We only found a few violators, whereas the number of infringements was too many to count on the first days of the tournaments,” he said.

“But we will still have to work actively to protect the World Cup copyright [in Vietnam],” he added.

A lot of viewers have also sent links of websites or platforms that infringed the World Cup copyright to the VTV official Facebook page.

Over 200 fans have so far reported around 700 violations to VTV, with the state broadcaster already handling 300 of them.

VTV has also called on cooperation from the Ministry of Information and Communications to help fight against the World Cup piracy on the Internet.

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