Content piracy is a deceptively deadly face of organised crime

A 2009 study found extensive links between film piracy, organised crime, and terrorist groups. The purchase of any counterfeit goods can be traced to organised crime. Stolen content, while entertaining, is funding some of the most harmful crimes on the planet, including human trafficking, terrorism, gambling, drug dealing, and child pornography.

These principles apply regardless of the brand or product being counterfeited—everything from a fake fragrance to a pirated TV series can contribute to funding an international terror network. Morally, users of pirated products are financial sponsors of various criminal activities, all interlinked in the global criminal underworld.

After years of information campaigns about the evils funded by content piracy, it's "no more Mr. Nice Guy" from police and prosecutors across Africa. Law enforcement is clamping down, and users of pirated content are squarely in the crosshairs. The message is clear: engage in piracy, and face severe consequences.

Using illegally pirated content—films, series, music, etc.—poses real personal risks, such as malware, identity theft, fraud, and financial ruin. The most critical risk is complicity in international crimes destroying millions of lives. Streaming a series from a dodgy site may seem harmless but opens users up to arrest, prosecution, and even jail.

Content piracy also has broader destructive impacts. The creative industry suffers from lost jobs and income, audiences suffer due to reduced choice, and the economy suffers through discouraged investment. Culturally, content piracy robs African creatives of the opportunity to tell their own stories.

Complicating the fight against piracy is that pirate streaming websites are cheaper than legitimate platforms, which pay the artists and professionals who produce the content. Pirate operations simply steal the finished product and profit without supporting the industry.

Supporting the new clampdown on content piracy is an increasingly firm, continent-wide set of copyright and anti-piracy laws. Police and courts are committed to aggressively prosecuting piracy, with digital surveillance and monitoring systems aiding their efforts.

Enforcement agencies undergo regular training on the latest piracy trends, equipping them with the tools and skills to execute their jobs professionally. .

There have also been arrests outside Africa, thanks to collaboration with international law enforcement agencies such as the US Department of Homeland Security, Interpol, and Europol. The war against content piracy has entered a new era of more ruthless enforcement, reflecting the devastating human impact of this crime in a globalised criminal environment. 

The writer is the Public Relations and Communication Manager at MultiChoice Kenya

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