Roku vs. Mexico: The Story so Far

Jeff Dugan
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Roku Inc., the company behind the popular Roku streaming devices, has announced that it has successfully removed (more accurately, reduced) piracy from its platform. Roku’s announcement comes after months of highly publicized privacy issues. Most notably, about a year ago, a court in Mexico banned the import and sale of Roku devices following a complaint from Cablevision, a major wireless channel distribution company.

Who’s to Blame?

Some argue that Roku can’t be held responsible for this debacle. TorrentFreak compares the court’s decision to “banning all Android-based devices because certain apps allow users to stream copyrighted content without permission.”

Mexico’s Telecommunications Law Institute, or IDET, argues that Roku needs to do more, citing competitors such as Apple TV and Google Chromecast as examples of set-top devices that put more effort into tackling piracy. IDET is clear that Roku does not condone this behavior, it simply wishes that Roku be more proactive.

“Why can Apple or Google prevent this situation? Because their devices eliminate the possibility of distributing stolen material in advance. It’s just a technology issue,” one of its press releases states. IDET sees Roku’s reaction to copyright infringement as too little too late.

At the time, Roku’s Marketing Director Matthew Anderson responded by saying that Roku’s presence in 23 countries and the huge number of associated channels (around 45,000) and accounts (approx. 21 million) makes it harder for the company to implement anti piracy measures

The History

In response to the ban, the company began displaying FBI warnings to users that added channels from outside the Roku store. A month later, it started assembling an anti-piracy team.

In March, things got worse when a Mexican market research firm revealed that 40% of Roku owners in Mexico use the device to access pirated content. The research, however, failed to detail the aggregate streaming time of pirated content, which is not directly proportional to the number it revealed and perhaps misrepresentative of the size of the issue.

Just last month, Roku invited a group of Mexican journalists to its Silicon Valley headquarters. Meanwhile, it’s CEO and Marketing Director visited Mexico. IDET did not take kindly to those actions, claiming that they were meant to exercise pressure, swaying public opinion and influencing the judges who are reviewing the case.

Roku’s counterclaim was that those efforts were meant to demonstrate counter copyright-infringing measures.

Roku Declares Victory

Roku released a press release yesterday boasting that its “streaming data reveals [the] effectiveness of [its] anti-piracy measures.”

“The company’s sustained anti-piracy measures,” the press release read, “have substantially removed piracy from its platform around the world, including in Mexico where piracy has been a long-standing issue for the entertainment industry.”

“Over the last year has implemented even stronger measures, including advanced software and tools to detect, deter and take down streaming channels that violate its anti-piracy policies, as well as enforcement measures against pirates who attempt to disguise themselves as legitimate streaming channel developers.”

According to the press release, data collected from Roku’s platform this month shows that 99.5% of all “streaming hours” come from channels with no links to ‘pirate organizations.’ (Notice that Roku is using streaming hours as a metric, as opposed to the number of users that stream pirated content.)

In addition, it claimed that it tracked 400+ pirate organizations and removed their associated channels from its platform. It also secured the removal of thousands of Facebook and other social media pages that misappropriate its valuable trademark rights to promote channels that provide access to infringing content.

Finally, the data showed that approximately 92% of streaming hours come from ‘legitimate’ channels in Mexico; Roku stressed that this number will align with the global average as time progresses.

If true, the findings should lead to a lift of the ban. Stay tuned!

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Jeff Dugan
Jeff Dugan

Jeffrey is a veteran tech columnist and reviewer. His favorite hobby is scouring the internet for tips, tricks, and little-known tools to get the best out of the web.

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