It seems our analysis last week of piracy’s latest trend, live streaming apps, hit home a little quicker than expected. The blockbuster fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao over the weekend proved to be a big hitter not only at the box office, but also on new apps Meerkat and, especially, Twitter-owned Periscope, where big fight piracy was the order of the day.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was extremely bullish after the fight prompted some 10,000 streams of related content. Presumably – hopefully – referring to the general activity on the nascent app during the main event, rather than the content of its streams, Costolo tweeted:



The downside of this “win” is that none of the streams that contained significant portions of the fight were licensed for re-broadcast, reiterating just how much of a threat these live streaming apps could pose for rights holders. The platform received 66 copyright infringement claims related to the Mayweather-Pacquiao event, of which it acted to take down 30 streams during the fight.

Despite this compliance with DMCA provisions, many analysts questioned the contrasting message sent by Costolo with his triumphant tweet, however well-intentioned. The high-profile CEO must have been at least partially aware that much of the activity on Periscope would be illegal rebroadcasting, which makes his comment akin to tacit support of piracy. Coming from such a prominent figure who heads up key digital platforms, there’s no real upside to his actions for those who rely on properly licensed content to keep their careers alive.

As we highlighted in last week’s article, fighting piracy on live streaming services is not going to be easy. The sheer immediacy of the platforms, coupled with the real time action for live events, means they feed a demand that must be addressed as it happens. Although those who own the rights to such high demand live broadcasts could complain and perhaps take legal action after the fact, the damage has already been done, and viewing revenue lost.

Perhaps the most worrying element of this particular piracy incident, though, is that the quality of the streams exceeded what most would expect from a cell phone’s second-hand stream. Andrew Wallenstein of Variety Digital explained in one interview that he explored the streams for journalistic insight, after which he concluded that“people are underestimating how good a picture and sound this was.” 

If this is the case for future sports broadcasts and live events, the pressure will be on Twitter and Periscope execs to act fast to curb their emerging piracy problem before it becomes habitual for users.

With baseball season already underway and the NBA playoffs and a new NFL season looming large on the horizon, there will be no shortage of opportunities for this new generation of apps to prove that they’re committed to respecting copyright.