By David Jenkin

How long has SAFACT been around and can you tell us a little about the stakeholder entities behind it?

The Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft, Limited by Guarantee (SAFACT), a section 21 non-profit registered company, represents individual owners and/or rights holders of the copyright in film, home entertainment and interactive games.

SAFACT represents the major Hollywood studios under the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), local film distributers such as United International Pictures (UIP), Ster Kinekor Home Entertainment, Times Media Distribution, Indigenous Films, Crystal Brook, MNET, Multichoice, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe (PlayStation), and publishing companies such as Van Schaik, Juta, Macmillan, Troupant, Oxford University Press, Exam Fever, NB Publishers and Lexis Nexis.

SAFACT was registered and established in 2001.

What is the scale of the problem in South Africa relative to other markets, and what is the most common form of piracy here?

According to Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Entertainment & Media Outlook (2015-2019) Report, the next five years will see a surge in smart devices, with smartphone connections more than doubling from 22.8 million in 2014 to 52.3 million in 2019, and active tablet devices rising from 2.6 million to 5.6 million over the same period. Mobile Internet penetration, will have risen more than 32% from 2014 to 2019, reaching 69.1% in the latter year. Television remains a highly significant contributor to consumer spending, second only to Internet access in terms of value.

One consistent trend globally is the rise in overall consumer spending through to 2019 on video-based content and services, against far flatter prospects for spending on primarily text-based content and services.

If consumer revenue from TV subscriptions and licence fees, video games and filmed entertainment is aggregated, around R4.8-billion will be added between 2014 and 2019. This reflects a surge in video-based content, particularly as the means of creating, distributing and viewing it becomes cheaper and easier. In contrast, consumer revenue from books, magazines and newspapers is expected to rise by just R1.3 billion over the entire forecast period.

As FTTx (optical fibre) networks are rolled out, subscriber adoption will begin to gather momentum, and, by end of 2019, we expect the number of FTTx subscriptions to rise to 164 000 (7% of the fixed broadband market). Most of the incremental demand for residential fixed broadband connections will continue to be met by DSL up to 2019, with the number of DSL subscriptions forecast to grow to 2 million, 84% of the total.

Given these figures and industry trends, it is clear that online digital piracy is of real concern and film, book and Playstation piracy remains a huge problem. However, a positive picture emerges when one factors in the risk and inconvenience associated with illegal download sites and the market penetration that legitimate services are having.

The hope is that the landing of legitimate digital content services (e.g. ShowMax) is set to replicate the international trend of systematically displacing the need for infringing services.

Is it safe to say we’re making progress towards an anti-counterfeiting climate?

Without a doubt. SAFACT has repositioned itself to counter copyright infringement through the deployment of a number of technical measures. For instance, through the active utilisation of searching and detection infrastructure, SAFACT is able to detect and remove infringing links, both locally and abroad. The goal of this process is to have less infringing material available for download.

Through monitoring, SAFACT aims to affect the takedown of a number of piracy-centric websites and services. Anti-piracy activities recently led to the takedown of three locally operated downloading sites. All three were taken down following a barrage of Cease and Desist notices sent to both the site operators and their respective hosting ISPs – thousands of illegal films, series and games have consequently been removed.

The Department of Trade and Industry’s Company and Intellectual Property Enforcement section of the Consumer and Corporate Regulations Division, employs inspectors appointed in terms of the Counterfeit Goods Act, 1997 (Act 37 of 1997). Customs and border police are also utilised with the appropriate law provisions to stop all counterfeit products from entering our borders.

What kinds of models are being discussed with ISPs to combat the use of torrents?

Access to infringing content (both locally and internationally) can be controlled via a number of technical methods. The first method, organised into the filtering category of index filtering, is IP address blocking or denial. The second is Uniform Resource Locator (URL) based filtering with the third technique known as DNS blacklisting.

IP Address Blocking blocks all access to a specific server. For example, Eircom (an Ireland-based ISP) blocked all access to by blocking all incoming client requests using this technique.

URL Filtering is a technique that blocks access to content on a pre-determined URL (or number of URLs) and can be used to scan a client URL request for certain keywords. This technique can be used in conjunction with the previous method.

DNS Blacklisting affects the FTP, HTTP and POP protocols; and deals with the resolving of domain names or, more specifically, the incorrect resolving of domain names (and the return of an incorrect IP address). For example, when a client requests a web-page using a domain name, said client starts by contacting his or her ISP’s DNS server (which is tasked with the retrieval of the requested site’s IP address). With this address resolved, the page content (as hosted on the remote server at that numeric IP address) can be requested. DNS blacklisting or DNS “poisoning” is a filtering technology where all requests to host names (as compiled into a table or list) are responded to with incorrect IP addresses. The Norwegian/Swedish ISP, Telenor, has employed such a filtering mechanism.

The above mentioned filtering methods are the most prominent; however, packet filtering (concerned with the analysis and blocking of TCP packets – FTP, HTTP and POP – whenever a certain sequence of keywords such as “torrent + <film title> + download” is detected) and TCP connection reset blocking (where TCP connections are blocked by the filtering software in use) can also be employed, with minimal cost and server time, as an add-on to the previously listed techniques.

An alternative to site blocking is Graduated Response, also known as three strikes. This is an approach adopted in response to copyright infringement using peer-to-peer software and it sees consumers disconnected after a number of notification letters warning that they are infringing copyright. The introduction of Graduated Response in France has seen peer-to-peer (P2P) piracy levels decline by 26%, with around two million P2P users stopping the activity since warning notices were first sent out. iTunes singles sales in France were 23% higher than they would have been in the absence of Graduated Response.

What negative knock-on effects does piracy have that consumers aren’t always conscious of?

Piracy reduces the ability of the industry to re-invest in new creative products and/or endeavours. It impacts on the rich cultural heritage we desperately need to preserve and develop. It impacts directly on revenues, royalties and the sustainability of our local entertainment industry.

How does SAFACT go about spreading awareness?

SAFACT frequently engages awareness campaigns with government agencies such as Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), Film and Publications Board (FPB) and the police. Participation on panel discussions, SABC TV shows, KYKNet film festivals and radio interviews are just some of the public media platforms that SAFACT has appeared on. We have tried to do many exhibition events such as World IP Day, Rage and EGE expos. SAFACT also issues press releases on newsworthy events.

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