In May 2022, Italian police claimed that thousands of people had unwittingly subscribed to a pirate IPTV service being monitored by the authorities. When users tried to access illegal streams, a warning message claimed that they had already been tracked. With fines now being received through the mail, police are making some extraordinary claims about how this was made possible.

Over the past two decades, pirate sites and services frequented by millions of users have been shut down following legal action. No longer useful for spreading files, many were repurposed to spread fear.

In the wake of Hollywood’s 2005 win at the U.S. Supreme Court, the website of file-sharing service Grokster was transformed into a personalized warning. Anyone visiting the site saw their own IP address alongside a message claiming it had been logged. “Don’t think you can’t get caught. You are not anonymous,” the message added.

Variations on this theme have since appeared on dozens of platforms, most famously via an MPA campaign that declared “You can click but you can’t hide.” These messages were designed to instill fear and uncertainty but didn’t lead to any notable action against those who viewed them. Until now, at least.

Italy’s War on IPTV Pirates Hits The Streets

Most top-tier copyright holders avoid targeting consumer-level pirates, mainly because the optics aren’t great. No matter how carefully targets are chosen, suing someone’s grandma is terrible PR and even when things go smoothly, results are limited.

Today’s general consensus is that hitting site operators is much more effective but whenever the opportunity appears, undermining user confidence should be part of the strategy. Italian police have been following the same model by shutting down pirate IPTV services (1,2,3) and warning users they’re up next.