Police officers are visiting the homes of those suspected of illegally streaming copyrighted material, including the Hollywood blockbusters, original dramas from Sky, and the latest Premier League fixtures. The latest crackdown, which is taking place at addresses across the UK, is the result of a joint operation between police and anti-piracy organisation FACT.
Officers have already visited homes in Essex, Hertfordshire, West Yorkshire and Pembrokeshire. Notices warning to immediately cease any illegal streaming activity are being handed to homeowners. In the past, broadband providers – including BT and Sky – have sent out similar notices in the mail. Internet suppliers are able to detect when customers are using their home broadband to illegally access copyrighted material, either using torrents, streaming sites, or set-top boxes like so-called Kodi and IPTV Boxes.
Kieron Sharp, Chief Executive of FACT said: “We employ a range of tactics to prevent the provision of illegal streaming. Our continuous activity targets different elements of the global piracy landscape, with consideration given to the scale of the offending to ensure effective and proportionate action is taken.”
Of course, those who have already been issued a warning – or are found to be distributing illicit ways to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters, shows and spot fixtures – can face much harsher penalties too. Last month, a man was arrested by West Mercia Police in connection with suspected illegal streaming of pay-TV channels. Police had worked with FACT on the case.
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Aside from the risk of a knock at the door from the police, there are a number of other risks associated with illicit streams.
A number of IPTV boxes are sold with access to Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and other paid-for channels for a low monthly fee of a couple of pounds or so. However, paying for these illicit streaming options exposes your credit or debit card to bad actors who could use those details (or not keep them encrypted and secure).
Not only that, but there is also an increased risk of malware and scams when visiting these nefarious streaming sites compared with legitimate options like Virgin Media and Sky.
Warning viewers about the increased risks when choosing free or low-cost illicit options, Kieron Sharp added: “Now that the new Premier League season is in full swing, some fans may be tempted not to view the matches appropriately on proper channels or selected devices and the risks for users are not without consequences. By clicking on links or misleading adverts fans are opening themselves up to their device being infected by a virus ransomware attacks, or even a data breach.
“Cybersecurity firm Webroot recently found that 92 percent of illegal streaming sites used for pirating sports content over a single weekend were promoting a range of Bitcoin and mobile app scams, as well as containing malware threats. In addition, watching content live via an unauthorised website or add-on can expose viewers (young and old) to explicit advertisements and age-inappropriate content. Unlike most legal sources, these unauthorised websites, devices, apps and the content that they can access have no effective parental controls.”
Last month, Paul Faulkner was jailed for illegally supplying as well as viewing Premier League content. The illegal streams operated by the 35-year-old promised to unlock access to Sky channels, which include some of the biggest US dramas and original movies, as well as Premier League matches. Faulkner was jailed for 16 months after pleading guilty to multiple copyright and fraud offences.
During sentencing, the Liverpool Crown Court judge recognised Faulkner’s use of the service was a crime itself, which was reflected in him receiving a separate sentence of four months’ imprisonment.
Speaking about the sentence, Premier League director of legal services Kevin Plumb said: “This sentencing demonstrates yet again that the courts take piracy crimes seriously and there are significant consequences for criminals involved in all forms of piracy.
“Legal action will be taken against those supplying unauthorised access to Premier League football, regardless of the size or scale of the pirate operation. This defendant was also given a separate four-month prison sentence for simply watching the unauthorised service. If it were needed, this should dispel any misconception that watching pirate streaming services is a grey area or is not an offence in any way.
“The Premier League’s significant financial support for the entire football pyramid and wider communities is made possible through being able to sell and protect our broadcast rights. We are pleased that, through judgments such as this, courts continue to recognise the importance of the protection of our copyright.”
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