Twitch Piracy Undermines ‘Biggest Event in Internet History’

Depending on your age, you either know that ‘the biggest event in internet history’ occurred on Saturday, or you have no idea what I am referring to. Two YouTubers with enormous followings, KSI (19 million YouTube subscribers) and Logan Paul (18 million YouTube subscribers), had a boxing match in Manchester, England, and their contest was streamed live to anyone willing to pay USD10 to watch it via YouTube (of course). The reason these two young men swung wildly and ineptly at each other for five rounds was painfully obvious to anyone foolish enough to watch: to boost the bank accounts of both multi-millionaires in the ring. However, the absurd hyping of the encounter may have backfired as legions of enterprising pirates re-broadcast the stream for free using Twitch, the live streaming video platform that is a subsidiary of Amazon and which is mostly used for video games and e-sports.

To say that the fight was easy to find on Twitch would be an understatement. The front page of Twitch shows the most popular live channels currently streaming, and the selection was dominated by pirate streams of the KSI-Paul encounter. This means anybody could simply click on one of the live channels and watch the fight for free, without even needing to log on. There were no signs that management at Twitch were taking any steps to take the offending channels offline.

It is worth asking how a business as large and successful as Amazon can allow itself to be profiting from such blatant infringement of intellectual property rights. Amazon has purchased the rights to stream sporting events live, and they also make their own entertainment programs; their lawyers would undoubtedly behave differently if Amazon’s content was being abused so blatantly. The crossover between the YouTube and video gaming community should also have been apparent to them; KSI began his YouTube career by playing and talking about games. The use of Twitch and other services like Periscope to pirate the boxing match highlights how easy it already is for casual pirates to infringe copyright by connecting two internet streaming services together.

Twitch should have been proactively taking down pirate streams and it defies belief that none of their team were aware that ‘the biggest event in internet history’ was taking place that evening. Anybody looking at Twitch’s home page would have found multiple infringing streams, so they hardly needed to wait for users to complain. This will serve as another illustration of why piracy is so widespread – even the businesses that should fear large-scale piracy can be too lax to take proactive measures to prevent it.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.