Illegal streaming: how IPTV and the Piracy Shield work

What is the technology behind it illegal streaming? How is it possible that you can watch matches or films online that you should have to pay for? The secret lies in the so-called “piece” which derives from a Neapolitan term meaning “falsified”, is an illegal decoder which, connected to the television, allows you to watch matches, films and TV series illegally. The “pezzotto” exploits technology IPTV, that is, a system for transmitting TV programs in streaming, therefore without an antenna or satellite. Let's see in detail when IPTV becomes illegal, how computer pirates manage to transmit illegal content and how it works Piracy Shieldor the so-called “anti-pezzotto shield”, which came into action a few months ago.

What is IPTV

The technology on which pirated broadcasts are based is IPTV, which stands for Internet Protocol Television. IPTV is nothing more than a system for transmitting TV programs in streaming, therefore without an antenna or satellite. This set of information – that is, data which is then transformed into images and sounds – is sent directly to our personal devices, which can be a computer, a smartphone, a tablet or a TV connected to a decoder, which is the ” we are talking about. Usually it is simply a TV box with the Android operating system installed inside. So IPTV is nothing more than the transmission on the internet of what we see on TV. But it's not always illegal. For example, if we want to watch free-to-air channels on the computer, such as RAI or Mediaset, we are not committing a crime. But if I use an IPTV to watch a match broadcast on DAZN or SKY without paying any subscription, you will understand that we are breaking the law. Therefore: IPTVs are not illegal – that is, the technology is not illegal – but the use made of it is illegal.

How illegal streaming works

But how do computer pirates broadcast – for example – Serie A matches on the internet? First of all, actual operational centers are set up from which the data originates: “offices” in which there are dozens and dozens of decoders – that is, boxes – operating 24 hours a day, tuned to a single channel. These decoders all come with a regular subscription. So criminals obtain images of broadcasts by actually paying for that content, only to then resell it illegally at a favorable price – therefore less than the subscription – but to thousands of people. So: the criminal pays 100 euros a month for a subscription, resells it for 10 euros, therefore much less, but to 10,000 people. So he paid 100, and earned 100,000.

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Once you have the content, the process of distributing it to various users begins. The audio/video signal of the various passes through the HDMI output and is sent to a device called “encoders”, which is capable of compressing this data, i.e. making it lighter. But above all the encoder makes the data compatible with the IPTV system. To simplify things a lot: television speaks one language, while the computer speaks another, and thanks to the encoder, criminals “translate” the television broadcast. Once converted, the pirated broadcasts are then sent to servers, i.e. computers equipped with software, which saves this data and is then able to redistribute it. And where are these servers located? Generally they are placed abroad, i.e. in countries where the law is a little more permissive, but above all they are more difficult for the Italian authorities to trace.

The various phases of streaming piracy

At this point, hackers literally create playlists – like the ones we have on Spotify – except that instead of songs there are text files that contain the address of the illegal broadcasts, i.e. the URL. These playlists – which are nothing but gods M3U files -, in fact they are a “list of illegal channels” that the hacker offers to users. Finally, once these playlists are created, criminals send – for a fee – the M3U files to users. The “pezzotto” – as well as any device equipped with a player compatible with this type of file – is able to read what is written in the M3Us, and is thus able to access the URLs of pirated broadcasts. And the screening begins.

Piracy Shield, the anti-fraud shield: how you get caught and what you risk

Last February 1st the Piracy Shield, the so-called “anti-piece shield”: it is a platform created with the aim of blocking these illegal transmissions. Let's try to understand how it works with an example.

Let's say a football match is broadcast from a pirate site. The rights holders of the match – i.e. the television networks that have the right to broadcast it, so DAZN, Sky or Amazon, for example – discover this pirated broadcast and report it on the Piracy Shield platform. At this point the platform notifies the managers of the internet networks – the so-called providers – that they can block the pirated site (therefore obscuring it) in just 30 minutes. But not only that, all users who were connected to the pirate site can also be reported.

Piracy Shield: how the anti-penetration shield works

The platform – which is owned by AGCOM (Communications Guarantee Authority) – has been in operation for a few months, so it is still early to take stock. But in the meantime we can already say that some very famous sites – used by thousands of users – have been blocked. AND the first fines have also arrived (up to 5 thousand euros) for those who watched pirated games.