The ‘Game of Thrones’ Piracy-Antidote

‘My watch has… not ended’

Dimitris Drandakis
8 min readJun 7, 2019

OOnce upon a time, media content had a price. To consume it, you had to pay for it. Years passed, and with advances in technology along came digital piracy.

The problem grew significantly with Internet making its way into everyone’s home and then expanded exponentially when the same technology was made accessible from everyone’s hands.

Some media domains, such as live sports, only later began being exploited by modern day pirates. Domains, like music, are doing faring better than others. The problem persists and will expand. Just wait for 5G technology to go retail.

Every copyrighted material that can be pirated, will be pirated.

Money from a media item that should be earned by its rightful owners will be divided into people who try to profit from it illegally.

With this concern in mind and believing there is a solution worth finding, my team established mediastalker.

Developed to be an intelligent virtual agent, mediastalker uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to protect intellectual property owners by restoring the financial value of their media assets. The backbone of our approach makes possible the detection and takedown of illegally published media content almost instantly, which is a critical feature as many media items are broadcasted live.

The challenge

Being a TV series addict, I marked the date of the premiere of the “Game of Thrones” (GoT) final season on my calendar, along with millions of other fans around the world. I was eager to find out who will sit on the Iron Throne, and not long after, an intriguing email from our sales department arrived.

The challenge was set. We struck a deal with Nova, the show’s broadcasting rights holder in Greece and Cyprus, to protect GoT - Season 8 within the domain of their rights. Within a matter of minutes, our marketing team pitched our motto, “She protects the dragons; We protect the content.

Nova’s official promo for Game of Thrones

Certainly, just as is winning the Iron Throne, the game of protecting digital media content is easier said than done.

mediastalker had previously demonstrated value by satisfying other important copyright owners by successfully protecting highly paid and high profile content, including content from the film industry and games from major sporting competitions, such as UEFA Champions League, Premier League, and Euroleague). However, GoT was considered the ‘most anticipated’ and ‘most pirated’ media item of all times, which would surely be a challenging item to protect.

A unique case required a unique strategy. We decided to treat each episode of GoT simultaneously as a ‘live event’ and a ‘library item.’ We expected a vast number of viewers in Greece would try to watch the show illegally during the premiere as well as many would try to find and view it afterward.

Having performed well in each of these domains separately, the challenge for mediastalker was to combine these approaches while making a real impact on driving the local audience to view the show through Nova’s channels.

The strategy and the approach had to revolve around our cutting-edge AI/ML piracy detection solution. mediastalker had proven scalability, speed of detection, and precision, all with a robust AI framework. As expressed in our published paper, the challenge proved to be an absolute winner.

The month of fire

Scene from ‘The battle of the bastards’

With our deal with Nova, we would experience a ‘month of fire.’ Season 8 would go on TV weekly from mid-April to mid-May, and this was our window to mark our territory.

The premiere episode of the season was extraordinary for Greece’s standards. For an audience used to finding content for free at a place in the world where no anti-piracy measures were taken before, they went wild for this global event. Out of about 8,000 media items discovered about the episode, approximately 3,000 were illegal and taken down by mediastalker.

Targets included live streaming attempts, real or misleading links to streaming sites, and downloadable or streamable videos on video sharing platforms, social media, and external websites.

The hit by mediastalker was critical, and illegal uploading attempts, especially on social media and video sharing platforms, decreased after the premiere. Episode after episode, we never again saw one exceed half of the premiere’s illegal uploading attempts. However, the numbers of the takedowns were still extremely high, especially for the local standards.

The highlight of our performance was the season and series finale.

Never has a final episode been less pirated than its premiere, and I am proud to report that my team and our mediastalker provided precisely this result.

Episode 6 came second in uploading attempts and the total was less than half of the uploading attempts for Episode 1.

Below is one of the memo’s graphs presenting the takedowns performed for each of the six episodes.

Graph 1. Number of takedowns per episode

My intention here is not merely to talk numbers. As someone in my position might do to impress, I could speak about ‘billions of links’ and ‘millions of downloads’ or about ‘hundreds of thousands of delisted search results.’ Who could prove me wrong? What exactly would I be pointing out? I intend to show what anti-piracy is about in an authentic, clear, understandable, and measurable way, and merely delisting a million search results, for example, does not bring us to this idea.

Anti-piracy is not about impressing your client with big numbers. Anti-piracy is about making a real impact in a clear, measurable, and powerful way when illegal uploaders stop uploading.

The graph above shows precisely this. mediastalker presented an obstacle for uploaders to share content illegally. Many tried and saw their attempts taken down quickly, with many others giving up after the first day.

In my opinion this is the single most important statistic. More graphs and analysis are already in the memo, but the bottom line of our action is that we deterred uploaders from illegally sharing the content and we stopped those who continued.

Who won the Iron Throne?

Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne

The question that comes to the mind of every fan of the series is who won the Iron Throne in the end. I will not spoil the show by answering this question here, but I can share more, spoiler-free, about the piracy aspects of the show in Greece.

If only this were a simple answer to give.

Many might expect me to declare our victory against media piracy triumphantly, but I will not. I will instead treat the matter with complete sincerity, which goes against the trend of exaggerations being written left and right.

  • mediastalker left its mark on a seemingly impossible GoT media piracy challenge.
  • Nova successfully extended its anti-piracy measures to a highly paid content that without our protection would have diminished its value.

That’s what we call a happy client!

Media piracy is complicated as many studies have reviewed why people indulge in piracy as uploaders or the audience. For whatever reasons exist, the one thing that will continue to be the case is that as long as there is an audience for piracy, there will be pirates illegally serving the content.

The question becomes what constitutes a victory against piracy?

I suggest that the answer is when a solution makes it more difficult for pirates to operate and converts the audience onto the legal channels of the copyright owners.

For Season 8 of GoT in Greece and Cyprus, mediastalker provided exactly this impact. While we did not end piracy for the show, we did present a new challenge to pirates by making it harder for the audiences to watch the show for free. The result turned more viewers to Nova.

I can proudly say that mediastalker won this challenge.

Winter is coming?

As the show is concluded, many fans are left with mixed feelings. Content protection, however, is not a show, and those involved should not have mixed feelings. Content owners are supposed to enjoy a high level of protection of their content in order to maximize their revenues and thus continue to produce high quality content. mediastalker is their safest bet in that aspect.

The process we experienced had an impact on the viewers and on our client, but it also had an impact on the team at mediastalker. We learned a lot from that challenge, we encountered and adapted to new situations and having excelled at one of the toughest challenges so far filled us with eagerness for the challenges to come.

Being a start-up dealing with scaling up, you first must learn from all situations. Then, you must adopt, adapt, and move on.

Piracy constantly evolves. Running an anti-piracy service means it must also always evolve, be prepared to adapt quickly to a new set of rules, and still be in a position to catch new trends. If protecting high- or low-profile events, you must continually offer your best performance to maintain the satisfaction of the client.

At mediastalker, we place most of the burden of adapting on the shoulders of our AI software. Our results have justified this approach as technology proves to be the key.

We worked hard on our solution, and we will continue upgrading to make it better each day. We are so proud to have the opportunity to offer the world a taste of mediastalker’s capabilities.

We are the best media anti-piracy solution available with results to prove it.

One of the most famous quotes from GoT is ‘winter is coming.’ It is not possible to know for sure if winter is coming for piracy or anti-piracy. What is certain is that when winter comes to one part of the world, then summer comes for the other part.

Nova certainly stayed on the sunny side during the course of this show and we at mediastalker like our clients to be on the sunny side of the anti-piracy world.

See and download our published paper here



Dimitris Drandakis

Co-founder | CTO @MediaStalker_AI #AI/#ML #SoftwareDevelopment #Tech #DigitalTransformation and... let's boogie! #BusinessAsUnusual