March 2, 2010: An Open Letter to Content and Event Owners Selecting their Live Streaming Partner

Livestream’s mission is to provide the premiere interactive live streaming platform for every event owner, broadcaster and premium rights holder in the music, movie, newspaper, radio and television industries.

The Piracy Problem

The availability of free live streaming services is unfortunately abused by many users broadcasting live, copyrighted content such as live sports, feature films and more (often rebroadcast from their television or cable box).

Such broadcasters infringe on the copyright of other individuals and corporations. Their actions are unlawful and hurt creative industries. In addition, they often monetize these streams through illegal pay-per-view, donation and subscription schemes on their websites.

Our Approach

  • Livestream proactively prevents copyright infringement on its platform. This approach is a key differentiator in the way Livestream conducts its business and the reason why we have published our “Zero Tolerance on Piracy” policy.
  • Livestream is not interested in artificial growth from illegal content.
  • Livestream does not hide behind the pretense that due to content volume there is no practical solution other than the Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown process.
  • The Livestream Content Verification Program is one of the ways we put our commitment into practice. Launched in February 2009, it limits all new free channels to 50 simultaneous viewers until they are manually authorized. This resulted in a temporary 40% traffic drop in 2009—which we quickly overcame by replacing illegal media with legitimate content. The Content Verification Program is an effective, scalable system for fighting piracy and led to a dramatic drop in infringing content.
  • In 2008, Livestream pioneered the automated takedown tool used daily by rights holders such as Disney, NBA, MLB, NFL, UEFA, International Olympic Committee, WWE, UFC, Warner Bros., English Premiere League and British Sky Broadcasting. Under pressure from these and other rights holders, our competitors followed and now offer a similar tool.

Our Goal

Our objective in releasing the "Zero Tolerance on Piracy" policy is to inform our customers, advertisers, partners, policy makers and competitors about the real issues and practical solutions for copyright protection in an age of ubiquitous free live video on the internet. We bring a fresh approach to the table with proven, measurable results.

We sincerely hope that our competitors will follow our thought leadership to implement the same processes to prevent copyright infringement on their platforms, either with their own initiatives or under pressure from their users, rights holders, advertising networks and elected officials. We also extend an open invitation to our competitors to work together to further evolve piracy control processes and best practices.

Ultimately, our efforts will enhance the quality and value of the live streaming industry, as we support the content creators.

Choosing a Live Streaming Partner

Often, large rights holders such as movie studios, television networks or brands will see the content side of their business working with a live platform while the legal side is fighting preventable content infringement on the same platform. When the two sides of the company connect, the business side usually has to stop doing business with the competing platform under pressure from their internal legal department.

We strongly encourage rights holders to demand that their live streaming partner uphold similar or more stringent copyright infringement policies with demonstrable results.

The Incentive to Tolerate Illegal Content

Live streaming platforms can directly benefit from illegal streamers by hiding behind the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or implementing limited effectiveness "detection technologies," while continuing to benefit from the traffic this content generates in the following ways:

  • revenues from viewer subscription fees to remove ads or get guaranteed access on a popular illegal stream,
  • revenues from advertising on large-volume streams driven by illegal content,
  • brand exposure for the platform logo in the player,
  • links back to the platform website to increase traffic, exposure and Search Engine Optimization
  • and mislead investors or content partners with inflated traffic numbers on measurement services such as Comscore/Quantcast/Alexa/Compete.

Some competitors have also gone as far as allowing popular illegal channels to be hidden from their guide so that the infringing channels are harder for rights holders to discover. We hope that they will react to this letter by implementing similar piracy control policies, instead of enhancing any hiding mechanisms. At Livestream, it is our policy not to hide popular channels. Please note that paying Livestream Premium customers can unpublish channels from our guide to create private broadcasts or exclusively broadcast on their website.

Compare Popular Live Streaming Platforms

Today, it is easy to investigate for yourself the effectiveness of each platform's copyright control policies by browsing the guides of some of the competing platforms during popular sports events in the US, Europe or South America:

TechCrunch also spoke on the subject:
How Serious Is Justin.tv About Fighting Live Broadcasting Piracy? (http://techcrunch.com/2009/12/15/justin-tv-piracy/)

Industry Background: Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Service providers such as Livestream and our competitors are protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Safe Harbor provision. This US law is designed to help service providers protect themselves against copyright violation by their users – as they cannot practically monitor all the content uploaded by every user. This law requires service providers to delete infringing content within 24 hours after receipt of a valid takedown notice from the rights owner. The window for live events is typically far shorter than 24 hours which is why the DMCA takedown as a sole process to prevent piracy and protect rights holders is not enough in our view.

While the DMCA is very important, at Livestream we have decided to go beyond its requirements and create policies to ensure we go as far as we can to practically reduce copyright infringement.

Read more on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act

Industry Background: U.S. Government – House Judiciary Committee Hearing

Copyright issues related to live streaming platforms are considered serious enough to have prompted the U.S. Government to hold a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on December 16, 2009 on the topic of “Live Sports Broadcast and Piracy.” Justin.tv’s CEO, alongside representatives from ESPN, UFC, MLB, and a University of Pennsylvania law professor, were invited to testify.

You can watch the recordings of the hearing on CSPAN’s web site:

  • Livestream limits all new free channels to 50 simultaneous viewers until they are manually authorized. Livestream producers can waive this limit by applying for our “Content Verification Program”. The channel limit is only waived upon approval by a Livestream content curator, at which point the channel is automatically published on livestream.com.
  • Livestream monitors the top 20 most popular channels for obvious infringement. We investigate and shut down any channels where likely infringement occurs.
  • Livestream promptly investigates all complaints sent to takedown@livestream.com, whether they are DMCA compliant or not.
  • Livestream provides an automated tool for trusted rights holders to instantly shut down channels infringing their rights. The broadcaster’s channel is shut down immediately and they can appeal if an error was made.
  • Livestream does not conceal or make it difficult to find popular channels.
  • Livestream will continue to work with rights holders to actively improve its copyright infringement policies and processes.
  • Livestream complies fully with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Please note that the verification program does not yet apply to the channels launched by our affiliate partnerships, namely Xfire.com and Twitcam.com.