Posted on: July 17, 2023, 07:57h.
Last updated on: July 17, 2023, 10:46h.
The Internet has made it easier for sports bettors to follow games around the world, often through unlicensed streams using a dedicated application. There are thousands of these streams at any given moment. But Italy hopes a new law will make them completely disappear.
Last week, the Italian Senate approved Bill 621 four months after the House of Representatives approved it. The measure received unanimous support from the chamber’s legislators, with no one voting against it.
The Authority for Communications Guarantees (AGCOM, for its Italian acronym) will soon have complete power to shut down any illegal stream. It won’t need to conduct an extensive investigation, nor will it need to seek approval. Italians watching an English Premier League or NFL game online through an unlicensed platform are going to suffer.
An End to Unlicensed Streams
The law still has to be put on the books, which is going to take some time. Once there, AGCOM, which regulates broadcast communications in the country, can order ISPs and network access providers to block pirated websites or streams of any kind, including sports, film premieres, and entertainment programs.
The providers will have 30 minutes to react once they have received the notification. However, AGCOM’s power doesn’t stop there. It can also order search engine operators and information service providers involved in any capacity in the accessibility of the website or of illegal services to block access as well.
Per the law, AGCOM will work with Italy’s National Cybersecurity Agency to create the necessary framework to implement the controls. They have to convene a technical group to develop a solution, which must be ready within six months.
One of the ways the streams gain widespread use is through Internet Protocol television (IPTV). Broadcast feeds are routed through particular IP addresses, streaming from pirated legal feeds, homes with paid subscriptions, and other methods.
There are hundreds of apps that allow access to these feeds, and even some smart TV systems include them in their libraries. While finding a viable feed can sometimes be time-consuming, there’s literally no limit to what is available.
AGCOM will try to make it as difficult as possible to access the feeds. Not only does the law allow it to take a reactive response and order an IP shut down, but it can also be proactive.
The regulator can order ISPs to block known DNS (Dynamic Name System) server links, which connect a website name to a particular IP address. Without them, netizens would have to memorize the IP addresses of websites instead of names.
The justification for the new measure is two-fold. Lawmakers believe it will help protect consumers and protect broadcasting rights deals.
Many illegitimate and rogue companies advertise through the illegal streams. It’s hard to envision a reputable sportsbook advertising on a platform it knows breaks the law in various countries. But there are plenty of unlicensed sportsbooks on them.
Italian lawmakers assert, based on research by an anti-piracy group, that the country loses as much as €319 million (US$358.52 million) a year in tax revenue through unlicensed broadcasts. Broadcasters also lose out because they’re not able to report larger subscriber bases. Once Italy’s system is in place, they expect their numbers to increase.
Australia has been working on a similar measure, but the process still requires a court’s approval. Recently, a federal court signed off on an injunction request by major entertainment broadcasters that resulted in 22 sites and 36 domains going dark. It took a month to get the approval.
The US is cracking down as well, and IPTV providers have been warned that 2023 is the year in which they will really come under fire. France is doing the same, and is contemplating a law that would force blocked sites to be included in web browsers.
The law would force the use of Cleanfeed, a content-blocking system already in use in other countries. Among these are the UK and Canada, although the latter’s use is only voluntary. Cleanfeed was once considered in Australia, but the idea was abandoned.