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Livestream Calls Out Ustream and for Profiting Off of Piracy

Livestream has issued an open letter touting its “zero tolerance” piracy policy while also comparing its policies against those of and Ustream, its closest competitors. The letter, which is addressed to “content and event owners” (i.e. potential customers), seeks to differentiate it how it treats piracy from the other live streaming platforms it competes against.

Livestream’s piracy prevention includes an automatic take-down system that enables rights holders to kill streams without having to send takedown notices. That system, which Livestream enabled in 2008, has been effective in reducing the amount of work it has to do, while also speeding up the process, according to Livestream CEO Max Haot. Livestream also limits the number of concurrent streams any user can support until the user is verified by a Livestream team member, limiting the number of fly-by-night video streamers that pop up to feed particular events or popular pieces of content. Since the number of concurrent streams is capped at 50 users, live streams aren’t able to grow too large or become very prominent before it is taken down, which limits the amount of pirated content that makes it into Livestream’s most popular feeds.

Livestream says some competing platforms are benefiting from piracy in a number of ways, including increased traffic numbers and increased advertising revenues on popular (but unlicensed) video content. As an example, Livestream points to some of the most popular channels at and Ustream as a way to point out how its competitors allow pirated videos onto their systems.’s most popular page is particularly egregious, with channels like “South Park 720p HD” and “24/7 Family Guy.” and Ustream have both been under legal pressure from rights holders in the past. The British Premier League threatened legal action against in late 2008 over pirated streams of its matches. And boxing promoter Square Ring sued Ustream over alleged copyright infringement last August.

But both and Ustream said on the phone today that they are working to restrict the amount of pirated content that occurs on their sites. and Ustream have both implemented the same sort of automated takedown that Livestream uses, enabling rights holders to kill streams they believe infringe on their content.

Both are also using fingerprinting technology to automatically detect and delete infringing streams. Last year, said it would tap Vobile to help it launch an automated fingerprinting technology to stop pirated streams from being uploaded. Ustream president Brad Hunstable says his company is also implementing fingerprinting technology and working with partners to ensure that its streams don’t violate their rights.

The problem is that the fingerprinting technology is not able to catch everything, because not all rights holders send their content into databases that the companies run their filters against, says Livestream CEO Max Haot. This is perhaps seen best in the screenshot above, where prominent Fox (s NWS) and Viacom (s VIA) VOD content is still available for streaming. Until video fingerprinting technology gets up to speed and all rights holders get on board, Haot argues that Livestream’s user verification system, combined with automatic takedowns, has been more effective in thwarting piracy.

Related GigaOM Pro content: Live Event Coverage: Video Rights Roundtable (subscription required)

41 Responses to “Livestream Calls Out Ustream and for Profiting Off of Piracy”

  1. ChrisB

    Well people wouldn’t be streaming southpark with would stream their OWN videos.

    And people wouldn’t be streaming family guy if FOX would allow to host a video from last month.

    These companies want to STOP users from watching their own stuff then they get mad when users try to share it around.

    I am with and and ustream :D
    I HATE livestream cause all the BS hoops you have to jump through…

  2. From a user’s perspective, of course, live events like sports are the final frontier of content, as essentially every other form of digital content can be had via P2P or direct download services. It should not be surprising that a huge underground sector has grown up to provide what is lacking legally. Even if it gets stomped out on the services discussed here, it will surely pop up elsewhere, probably in an even better form.

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  4. Lawrence

    “P.S” and “WeschesterNews.Com” raise some verying interestig points.
    Nonetheless, piracy, that which was and is practiced on the high seas and oceans, must be unknown or respected by some that have made comments against Livestream. The concept of intellectual rights seems to be the subject. Someone or team has invested time, effort and expenses to create “something original.” In our discussion case, it’s content.

    How do the content creators, retrieve cost and gain reward from their invested ideas and effort? In one sense they place “their finished product” in the marketplace for sale. Now, every Tom, Dick and Jim come along…see “Harry Potter”, copy it and also place their copies in the marketplace for sale. Tom, Dick and Jim spent no time “thinking up the idea, researching the steps to make it happen, and hiring people to make it.” Tom, Dick and Jim never see the the hidden steps of technology. Let’s call this the X factor. Tom and friends don’t really care about it. To simplify, the X factor is mental, physical and financial debt. Tom and friends only care about the product of technology, the book, what they see: content. However, their rip-off help kill the spirit of the inventor and others who dare to create.

    The inventor might have mortgaged life savings and those of supportive friends. The illegal copies of Tom and Friends are selling like hotcakes and their firm grows wealthy. The person that created the original is never able to recoup enough money to pay off debt or survive. The illegal copies are covering or blocking the market for sale of the original.

    Today, hardware technology like the Internet makes it easy for people not to see or ever think about who is really hurt by intellectual copyright infringement. Websites like this enable the masses to vote by offering opinon about something we have not sweated over, invented and have no real vested interest.

    I don’t believe those who are unsympathetic to Livestream really ever stopped to think about what happended to young Philo (Mr. Television) Farnsworth (at the hands of RCA) or Dr. Armstrong who invented FM Radio, or the man that invented the Sears socket wrench. Young people today are not immune from intellectual infringement. Did You Tube reward the 3rd grader for her or his idea..if the story is true. Ostensibly You Tube made a lot money off that idea.

    Copyright and patent laws have a history and much of it was developed to help protect future creative minds. You are the future. Let us recall that technology is threefold and using it makes us capable of blocking one or more of our senses that make us human.

  5. hmmm puritans….

    I don’t think we pay royalties to the carpenter and plumber and electrician that built this house, so I’m not completely understanding the differences here. the band and the construction crew performed their job. They both got paid..should be end of story. But, the record industry decided to record the performance and make copies to sell. They convinced the law to cooperate while they manipulated the recording industry for years.

    Now that everyone can make the recording, they still want to own the rights…who died and made them god?

    I bought a beatles album in 1964, I am still paying royalties on the tunes that are on that album, every time they are played on the radio, in a bar, used in background sound. It’s merely money laundering for the people in the recording industry that don’t actually do anything.

    The reality is that copyright as you all know it has served it’s purpose and has done it’s time. It’s time to dump the middle man, that model no longer works, and we don’t need a middleman (telling us what to listen to). The model needs to be adjusted.

    In Canada, tariff 22 is still being worked on (over 10 years) to allow a collection of royalties from the Internet. However, the way it’s coming out, it would be better for the musician that it didn’t exist. It basically sells their rights for peanuts and gives others the right to make money on the process (sort of like radio).

    The recorded record openned up music to so many that could not otherwise have heard what was going on. It made the world more music aware. And as you can see, it has thrived, however, there’s more to that element than a pristine CD recording. There’s performance..

    We’re back to pay for performance.

  6. I think the networks in particular are afraid these streaming sites will get so big that the networks might have to share some of their ad revenues, I can remember a time when it wasn’t piracy as long as you credited the artist or originator (in the print world), why is video or the internet any different? THE MONEY…

  7. Livestream has got to understand that this is the web and everyone of us intertwine with one another, were all caught in the same web, link by link, it’s about the traffic you get organically, and personally I like when other websites take my work, it says hey, we like what you did here. I always imprint my work The Westchester News.Com so the viewers know where it came from, so I don’t have a problem with people embedding it onto there websites, it brings more traffic to my website, The Westchester News.

    Barbara Ricci, Publisher
    The Westchester News.Com

  8. Ryan, Your writing rocks. I’ve enjoyed and been informed by NewTeeVee for almost 2 years. But there is this thing that has been nagging at me for a while.

    Currently, there are 11 articles at NewTeeVee that use the term “piracy.” There are 2 that reference “fair use.”

    There are not any instances of fair use and “piracy” being discussed in the same article.

    Why don’t anyone write about–or at least acknowledge–the relationship between these two issues?

    Are “pirates” 550% more relevant to readers than artists?

    That’s the end of my rant.

    NewTeeVee is the best. Keep going.

    • Ryan Lawler

      Weston – Thanks. Two points I’ll make about the piracy vs. fair use with respect to this article: 1) I’m reporting about the Livestream open letter, which refers to the issue of piracy specifically; and 2) I think it’s pretty clear that live streams of unlicensed content, with no additional commentary, is piracy, and not fair use. I don’t think anyone would believe “24/7 Family Guy” is a channel that would be protected under the Fair Use doctrine.

      That’s not to say that we at NewTeeVee don’t think Fair Use is important. See our “Five Essential Fair Use Resources for Online Video Makers,” for instance. But yes, we should do more to acknowledge the relationship between the two.

  9. how dare livestream says this.
    did they forget that back in the time of mogulus they were doing the exact same thing. They just had a lucky break which allowed them to become more professionalized and make more money. They now have some good partners to provide that on-the-go streaming technology and some strong customers. Ofcourse you would be complaining if you were losing traffic but who doesn’t want to watch illegal content and who would be willing to pay to put illegal content on livestream?

  10. Livestream is just jealous. I stopped using their site they don’t provide the same type of HD bandwidth for free.
    Their prices are shocking and as a home user how could anyone afford the sort of prices they want per month to stream live?.
    Just pure greedy! I will stay with and, Blogtv also :) I find them more fair to their members and the prices for Premium membership is very fair compared with Livestream which nobody can afford (unless they are rich)

  11. Gonzalo Ramazco

    Hola a todos.

    For english use translator please ;)

    Creo que la “ZERO piracy tolerance policy” es totalmente estupida, mucho mas en este caso.
    Cuanto mas gente mira un canal, mas se beneficia este (hablo de FOX por ejemplo).
    En mi pais, Argentina, no puedo ver LOST en HD por ejemplo, ni Fringe (ni lo dan), ni Dr House en HD. Ademas los capitulos salen con retardo.
    Internet me da esa posibilidad de ver lo que no puedo AUN si TUVIERA TODO EL DINERO DEL MUNDO. Mucho mas, puedo ver canales internacionales que aqui no me dan.
    HULU y FOX en USA son gratuitos, entonces ¿De que se queja Livestream?

    Lo unico que lograra es que todos nos pongamos en su contra, y de esa manera dejemos de utilizarlo.


  12. Deseariamos que alguien nos diga si transmitir programas cristianos como por ejemplo peliculas de orijen cristiano,caricaturas de orijen cristiano,etc.viola los derechos de privacidad de las personas o companias que la producen.nos gustaria saber,para no estar fuera de las reglas de Livestream,gracis. Dios les Vendiga.juan.

    • “Why is free culture horrible?”

      Umm.. well take my company for example launching in March 2011. We are producing wrestling events, streaming them live on our website and then making them available OnDemand. If everybody believed in a free culture, I wouldnt have a business.. Why do you believe you should get something for nothing? Can you not afford it or do you like being a bum. My company will provide free content on a daily basis so monthly Pay Per View events is where our money will be made.

  13. Robert

    “Their actions are unlawful and hurt creative industries.”

    You got a source?

    If anything, streaming services promote creativity because they allow anybody to share. Having to go through a selective process used BY the industries… now THAT hurts creativity. Don’t suck up to the industry or you’ll end up the same as them: Outdated and increasingly irrelevant.

  14. I am a supporter of free culture, why people do not have the right to see a football game wherever you are? or view your favorite show anywhere in the world, why? call me a pirate if you want, instead of prosecuting the suspected pirates, reach agreements are reasonable, but can develop a good IPTV.

  15. Actually, DO crack down on people streaming copyrighted/pirated material on a daily basis. A friend of mine used to stream tv shows and movies and has been banned from the site multiple times.

    Don’t be nubcakes. Thanks.

  16. I have to agree with Gabriel, I can see Pay per veiw, etc. being an issue, but since these sites also allow pay per veiw, seems silly not to take advantage of it. I mean put some money in justin’s or ustream’s pocketbook and I bet things change quickly. But on the rest, how is someone rebroadcasting a stream off of a free tv channel that is supported by ad revenues really piracy in the strictest sense of the word, in that more eyeballs = more money. If the rebroadcast is not changed in any way (e.g. cutting commercials, etc..) should make everyone happy since they now have a potential world wide audience, maybe we should just change what our definition of piracy really is..

  17. gootecks

    Who is LiveStream to call out competing, more successful sites about how they run their businesses? Maybe LiveStream should worry more about improving their own business and lowering costs so more people can use their services and less about the content of other sites.

  18. Gabriel Baryard

    All of these people need to stop fighting the flow and come up with ways to start profiting from giving away things that are currently being taken for free whether they like it or not. It wasn’t so long ago that Youtube was deleting videos if they had copyrighted songs in them. Then one day a third grader suggested they use these songs in the videos as sales tools. Duh. Dear world, catch on.

  19. Hi Ryan, I think we should look to some of the people on the other side of the table to really asses who’s leading this part of the industry. At the video rights round table hosted by NewTeeVee/GigaOm last year, Betsy Zedek, Legal Counsel at Fox, commented specifically on’s work with copyright holders, as well as Livesteam’s. That video can be seen here:

    We’ll be writing a more detailed response on the blog shortly.

  20. This is an interesting article to read today, because as mentioned in the article, live sports, especially soccer, are a huge draw for viewers. Games not televised locally, or only available in expensive cable packages or pay-per-view, are all over sites like Ustream, and others, including Veetle (not to mention P2P-TV services out of China, of course).

    There are a number of interesting international soccer matches today that will likely drive a great deal of traffic to sites that stream them for free. From a user’s perspective, of course, live events like sports are the final frontier of content, as essentially every other form of digital content can be had via P2P or direct download services. It should not be surprising that a huge underground sector has grown up to provide what is lacking legally. Even if it gets stomped out on the services discussed here, it will surely pop up elsewhere, probably in an even better form.