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ACE to Crack Down on Password Sharing

After clamping down on pirated streaming TV services and sites that provide illegal access to movies still in theaters, a legal consortium backed by major Hollywood studios, OTT video giants and big pay-TV distributors is now also taking aim at password sharing and other methods used by consumers to access content without proper authorization.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a group that has already slayed alleged video service pirates and services such as DragonBox and Set TV and contributed to the recent shutdown of Omniverse One World Television, announced Wednesday that it has formed a new working group focused on cutting down unauthorized access to content.

"The entertainment coalition will provide opportunities to share best practices and information on what facilitates unauthorized access, including improper password sharing and inadequate encryption," an ACE official told Light Reading via email.

In that sense, ACE is taking up a cause championed by Charter Communications and its CEO, Tom Rutledge, which has moved to elevate the password-sharing issue and secure buy-in from other programmers, media companies and distributors.

Charter, the newest member of ACE, has already begun some work with Disney and Fox to standardize that effort, holding that out-of-control piracy and password-sharing are harming the pay-TV business and will only get worse as media companies push ahead with their own direct-to-consumer streaming products.

"There is some recognition in the programming industry that they are now distributors," Rutledge said last week on Charter's Q3 earnings call. "And as a result of being distributors...they need to know where their content is going...It's just too easy to get the product without paying for it."

Why this matters
The new working group opens up a new area of focus for ACE and its legal team, which has had success targeting criminal cases involving services that use the Internet to market and sell illegal pay-TV services and provide unauthorized digital access to TV shows and movies, including titles that are still in theaters.

Meanwhile, the digital era has led to an "explosion" of new, legal streaming platforms, Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association and ACE chairman, explained in a statement. "But its openness has also brought challenges like piracy and unauthorized access that compromise the intellectual property that supports content creators and the economic viability of their work."

Getting ACE on board will also help Rutledge and Charter fulfill their mission to get more video and pay-TV media companies behind an effort to reduce password-sharing and other methods that consumers use to access content without payment or proper authorization.

ACE's membership includes many big names in the TV and entertainment sector, including Comcast (along with NBCU and Sky), AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, CBS, Disney/Fox, Discovery Networks, Bell Media, Netflix, Hulu, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Viacom, Lionsgate and Telemundo, among others.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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