A New Kind of Internet Pirate

What’s stopping people from using apps like Periscope and Meerkat to livestream video they don’t own? Not much.Meerkat and Periscope made livestreaming hip again — at least for a few weeks, before much of the hype died down. After all, both are tools for broadcasting what’s happening to the streamer in real time, which often means sharing the mundane goings-on of everyday life (think the Periscoping of fridges, for example) that can get old fast.But livestreaming apps could be useful for broadcasting more than just fridges and daily experiences; they can show breaking news (as was the case on the scene of a seven-alarm fire in New York’s East Village last week), sponsored events, or, to take it a step further, copyrighted material like TV shows and films. It’s not an issue the apps have encountered yet — the low-quality video would make extended viewing experiences uncomfortable, and there are plenty more sophisticated ways people finagle illegal access to art — but as the companies behind the apps grow, users could potentially grant other users access to, say, premium channels like HBO, by opening Meerkat or Periscope, pointing the smartphone at the episode of Game of Thrones airing live, and streaming the channel. So what’s stopping someone from doing so?

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