Live streams of the heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin are set to spread across Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms this weekend, prompting warnings of the potential consequences for people who host them.
Previous fights involving WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Joshua have attracted huge amounts of interest, which resulted in large numbers of people turning to illegal sources to watch online for free.
It is estimated that around 4 million people illegally streamed Joshua’s previous fight against the New Zealander Joseph Parker, the majority of which did so from the UK.
Alongside pirate streaming sites that are easily accessible through search engines like Google, free streams of the fight also appeared across social media on platforms like Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope.
Piracy data specialist MUSO has tracked streams of Joshua’s past fights, with millions of people again expected to seek illegal feeds of his fight against Povetkin.
“Almost 4 million people illegally streamed the Joshua vs Parker bout, with country based loyalty making fight fans from the UK, Nigeria [where Joshua’s mother originates] and New Zealand [where Joseph Parker is from] supporting their fighter by watching online,” Simon Horton, head of software development at MUSO, told The Independent.
According to MUSO’s analysis, the top seven countries that streamed the bout illegally were: United Kingdom, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, New Zealand, Fiji and United States of America.
The problem has become especially prevalent on social media, with tools like Facebook Live allowing people to easily share content using just their smartphone. One illegal stream of Joshua’s 2017 fight against Vladimir Klitschko reached over 597,000 people on Facebook.
“Whether it’s a re-stream on social media, a piracy site, or using a device, box or stick connected to your TV, avoiding the official provider to access the fight is illegal,” said Kieron Sharp, CEO of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
“FACT is leading the way in combatting digital piracy and working with PIPCU and industry to crackdown on illegal streaming and to hold those behind them accountable for their actions. It is getting harder and harder to watch live sport illegally and so boxing fans should be aware that if they were planning to watch the fight this way they are breaking the law.”
It is hoped that initiatives, such as the Copyright Directive that was approved by the EU last week, will mean the likes of Facebook and Google will have to be more proactive in taking down copyrighted material, including illegally streamed fights.
Those breaking the law by either hosting or viewing illegal streams risk severe fines, legal experts warned, as well as more unexpected consequences.
“Don’t let your eagerness to tune in make you commit a crime. By using illegal streaming sites you can open yourself up to several risks; some set-top boxes do not go through rigorous electrical testing and are therefore at risk of catching fire or giving electric shocks,” Detective Inspector Nick Court of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit added.
“By using legitimate providers these risks can easily be avoided. Watch it live, watch it legally.”