We introduce the ACE initiative which sees companies like Netflix and Disney teaming up, and outline its (huge) potential on the global war on piracy.
On June 13, 30 media giants announced their collaboration in the launch of an initiative that has the potential to change piracy forever. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition that joins the forces of companies including Disney, Warner Brothers, Netflix, 20th Century Fox, HBO, Amazon, the BBC… and just about every other major media company you can name.
The coalition, backed by the MPAA and currently spoken for by Zoe Thorogood, the ex-UK-PM’s press secretary, aims to expand availability of legal content, increase enforcement through civil and criminal litigations, and reduce theft by initiating partnerships with 'participants across the internet ecosystem' (we’re not exactly sure what that means either).
Its MPAA support does mean that it can be enabled by the already-existing MPAA anti-piracy resources, which have historically seen controversy because of alleged infringements on freedom of speech (remember Hollywood and the MPAA’s top-secret war on ‘Goliath’, commonly supposed to be Google?). The issues faced by the MPAA are indicative of problems seen by media companies attempting to clamp down on piracy over the open platform that is the internet, considering that search engines are not legally liable for listing illegal links and attempts that censor internet content or breach privacy of users are likely to cause public outcry.
It’s why the US SOPA bill saw such polemic responses; media companies supported the act because with search engines and ISPs under new liability piracy would surely decrease, but user-generated content platforms claimed that the act would be in breach of the safe harbor provision, and furthermore that their entire domains would be threatened by material that realistically, they had little control over. The bill was ultimately postponed, but a similar (and equally controversial) proposal has been drafted by the European Court of Commission, which will implicate user-generated platforms such as Youtube and Facebook by asking that the sites automatically monitor content for piracy infringements. Whether or not, for example, Facebook should see your private videos in order to stop piracy is a subject heavily disputed, and will doubtless prove difficult to resolve for the commission, which is facing continuous pressures by media companies.
It’s not clear yet how ACE will achieve its end goals, but with the combined strength of its diverse media companies, as TorrentFreak points out “it’s likely that the creation of ACE will go down as a landmark moment in the fight against piracy”. Companies like Netflix and Amazon working with Hollywood media giants is a significant step, and has the potential to reshape the global media industry and attack the very core of piracy. However, as the article continues, “with great diversity comes the potential for greatly diverging opinions, so only time will tell if this coalition can really hold together”.
Regardless, ACE is surely a step in the right direction to clamping down on piracy, as a joint force operation can fight piracy from all corners: by educating, penalising and co-operating. The consolidation should see that other companies benefit from the coalition, too, so that the much-hurt indie film industry may finally see some salvation alongside Hollywood blockbusters.
The ACE coalition is responding to a threat that has spiralled out of control, but to what end? As the alliance points out, almost 1 billion movies and TV shows were pirated in 2016. This number is consistently on the rise, and new technologies and legal workarounds have quickly adapted with efforts to curb piracy: infringers can mask their identity online and sites can reduce their culpability. Streaming as opposed to torrenting has grown, using VPNs and via sites that do not host content and thus are tricky to indict. Without a game-changing approach on the part of ACE, it’s clear that major improvements will be hard to achieve. And the race is on: media businesses must respond to piracy before it becomes a norm for a younger generation.