A hand pointing a remote at TV to access streaming services.

The Internet is a convenient yet mysterious experience. With a few strokes of the keyboard we can have almost anything sent to our homes.

When dealing with well-established and legitimate businesses we have a good idea of who’s on the other end of the transaction.

But what about illegitimate businesses? Who are we dealing with then?

Take for example the people who offer pirated TV, pirated free movies, and illegal sports streaming through websites, iptv services and other illicit streaming apps and devices.

Piracy and Criminals

Busts offer some insight into who’s at the helm of these criminal organizations. In some cases their only offense is content piracy. But past research shows organized crime syndicates and even terrorist organizations finance their activities in part through content piracy.

The non-profit RAND Corporation found groups that pirated content also committed other crimes including drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human smuggling.

It pointed to case studies that showed:

  • In Italy, the Camorra mafia used film piracy as part of its counterfeiting operations.
  • In Malaysia, street gangs fought turf battles over piracy markets. In the process, bystanders have been robbed and gang leaders assassinated.
  • State-facilitated, Russian pirate syndicates sometimes operated their businesses on government property or from prison. Anti-piracy investigators have been murdered, and the head of the Russian Anti-Piracy Organization was unsuccessfully targeted for assassination.
  • South American pirate and US-designated terrorist Assad Ahmad Barakat was allegedly a major financial backer of Hezbollah.

So far, we have only a narrow glimpse into the shadow world of content piracy and organized crime. And while nobody wants to support those who operate in such a world, when we choose to shop in a black market – which is where pirated content comes from – we do just that.

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