Streaming media player Roku has begun to crack down on those among its more than 1000 privately operated channels which are distributing pirated content, TechCrunch reports, and is warning users that subscribe to them that it can shut down the channels any time it chooses.
Warning messages are being displayed to Roku users who choose to install these third party channels, per TorrentFreak, which are not exactly subtle.
"WARNING!" the message goes. "THIS IS A NON-CERTIFIED CHANNEL."
"By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences," it adds. "Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku's terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE."
It isn't exactly the most chilling message in the world — there's no implication that users could get in any trouble for accessing pirated content through the platform — but according to TechCrunch, some channels have already removed Roku support, anticipating a wider purge. Roku is currently on track to become the number one smart TV device in the US in 2017, according to an eMarketer projection, though it isn't really clear whether its popularity has anything to do with unauthorised channels streaming Game of Thrones.
Somewhat complicating the content industry's efforts to shut down illegal streaming is the fact that this remains as much of a losing battle as ever, despite the shifting tactics.
This round, the companies pushing action against pirates are mostly targeting distributors rather than random users. In the UK, for example, copyright protection groups are leading a crackdown on add-ons to media box software Kodi that allow users to pirate content on a whim, but have yet to really target the people actually using the software.
In the US, the MPAA has largely given up on convincing people that pirating movies and TV shows is actually morally wrong and has instead turned to scare tactics, insisting visiting file-sharing websites can lead to malware. Per Deadline, the MPAA is largely relying on relatively absurd possibilities such as teenage girls' webcams being hacked, or bank accounts being drained of money. It's even arguing piracy can lead to "sex-tortion", where hackers who have broken into webcams coerce users into sending more indecent media of themselves on the threat of releasing it publicly.