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28 August 2017

Mystery number codes appear on streaming videos

An unusual watermark was being embedded into streams. / AFP PHOTO / John Gurzinski

IF YOU were one of the millions of people illegally streaming the Mayweather/McGregor fight, you might have noticed mystery codes appearing during the broadcast.

While the watermarked code wasn’t visible during the entire action, eagle-eyed sleuths noticed it would appear when the camera was focusing on people in each corner.

The code, a combination of letters and numbers, stayed the same throughout the broadcast of the highly anticipated fight.

There has been no explanation about the source or meaning of the unusual watermark, although it could spell bad news for those illegally broadcasting the fight.

The most likely explanation for the code is that it had been embedded into streams by a broadcaster licensed to show the fight as a method to track those illegally sharing the fight.

[It would allow the broadcaster] to track the illicit stream back to a subscriber and/or a set-top box tied to a particular account,” TorrentFreak explained.

“Since that subscriber has then re-streamed that content back online illegally, the code would act as a homing beacon and could spell bad news for the individual involved.”

While it would be a strange decision to embed a visual watermark given the plethora of invisible tracking options available to broadcasters, it could have been a tactic used to simply scare those illegally watching the broadcast.

There is also the possibility the codes were put on the broadcast by someone in the illicit streaming market.

“Pirate streams are vulnerable to being ‘stolen’ in much the same way that official streams are, so it’s possible that a provider wanted to keep tabs on where its streams were ending up,” TorrentFreak explained.

Facebook played a role in facilitating illegal broadcasts of the fight using its Live feature, with streams attracting tens of thousands of viewers.

Some of the many streams of the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight

Some of the many streams of the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fightSource:Supplied

Earlier this year, two Australian men were facing fines of up to $60,000 or five years jail for using Facebook Live to stream the $59.95 Danny Green-Anthony Mundine pay-per-view to hundreds of thousands of viewers.

One of the men responsible, Darren Sharpe, was forced to post a public apology to avoid legal action.

“Last Friday I streamed Foxtel’s broadcast of Mundine v Green 2 fight via my Facebook page to thousands of people. I know that this was illegal and the wrong thing to do,” he wrote.

“Foxtel and the event promoters invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce the fight and to broadcast it. I unreservedly apologise to Anthony Mundine and Danny Green, to the boxing community, to Foxtel, to the event promoters and to everyone out there who did the right thing and paid to view the fight. It was wrong and I apologise.”

Facebook user Brett Hevers also broadcast the fight over the social media platform and posted a similar apology to Facebook.

“I unreservedly apologise to Anthony Mundine and Danny Green, to the boxing community, to Foxtel, to the event promoters and to everyone out there who did the right thing and paid to view the fight. It was piracy, and I’m sorry,” he wrote.

At the time of the broadcast, Foxtel said the effects of breaching content copyright was more widespread than people might expect.

“Illegal streaming and file sharing of any kind impacts not only the viability of the entire content industry, but also the thousands of people employed by it, including athletes, actors, technicians, editors, caterers, set designers and more, who depend on copyright laws being respected in order to protect their livelihood,” a Foxtel spokesman said.

“In addition, if revenue opportunities are undermined sports fans will suffer as sports presenters and promoters will have difficulty affording the costs of staging these fights and other events.”

Did you see the strange code? Continue the conversation in the comments below or with Matthew Dunn on Facebook and Twitter.

News Corp, the publisher of this website, is a 50 per cent owner of Foxtel.

Internet providers could soon be forced to give out the personal details of customers caught illegally downloading content.

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