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One winning battle in the war on piracy

Global premiere dates for popular television programmes will help stop online piracy
Television operators such as OSN have increased efforts to clamp down on piracy. Silvia Razgova / The National
Television operators such as OSN have increased efforts to clamp down on piracy. Silvia Razgova / The National

The opening of the sixth season of the global hit Game of Thrones has rekindled a long-simmering debate about online piracy. Television operators such as OSN have increased efforts to clamp down on piracy, buoyed by a recent conviction in a Dubai court of an illegal internet TV provider. Enforcement of existing intellectual property laws, however, is only one part of a prudent strategy to stop piracy.

The internet has allowed television series such as Game of Thrones and House of Cards to become instant global hits that enjoy unlikely popularity from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires. Traditionally, films and television shows were released on separate dates around the world because of a large number of factors. Translation, copyright bureaucracy and the sheer practicalities of transporting spools of film or videotape meant that a series could begin in the United States in the spring and not reach the Middle East until autumn. With nearly instant file sharing technology available on the internet, staggered release dates reflect an outdated model of distribution. Ubiquity defines the marketplace for internet users.

In many ways, Game of Thrones is an ideal test case for creative new ways to reform existing distribution models and control internet piracy. Once again this year, the season opener of the popular hit was broadcast worldwide at the same time – 5am in the UAE – in an effort to remove one of piracy’s primary attractions: immediacy. By contrast, the new season of the smash hit series House of Cards took months to play out on OSN after all episodes were broadcast in the United States at the same time.

When it comes to major Hollywood films, there is almost zero lag when it comes to global release dates. The same goes for live sporting events. Who doesn’t know a mad sports fan who gets up in the middle of the night to watch their team play, or a passionate movie lover who will go to a midnight screening of a new blockbuster? Television remains one of the last frontiers for staggered release dates and that must change if the fight against piracy is to be successful.

In the age of binge watching, when entire seasons are released in one batch on streaming sites such as Netflix, the television industry will be well served by ensuring that the most popular shows are released simultaneously around the world. This is one winning battle in the continuing war against the theft of intellectual property.

Updated: April 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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