17 September 2020CopyrightMuireann Bolger

Thousands of illegal streaming service users warned by UK police

UK police have issued individual warning notices to thousands of people suspected of using an illegal TV streaming service.

The first of its kind in the UK, the warning was issued by Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary Cyber, Intelligence and Serious Organised Crime Directorate yesterday, September 16, to subscribers of a service called GE Hosting.

The letter stated that subscribing to the service is a crime that carries a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine, which would result in a criminal record.

It further outlines how GE Hosting had infringed IP. “By providing this illegal service, the operators of GE Hosting have committed criminal offences contrary to the Serious Crime Act, the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, these are serious offences which carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment,” said the letter.

The notice also made clear that the police would continue to monitor subscribers’ behaviour. It added that suspected users could face further investigation and prosecution if they ignore instructions to cease illegal streaming.

The police gained the list of subscribers to the service after carrying out a warrant earlier this year. On June 30 officers arrested a man in connection with suspected illegal streaming of premium TV channels and other copyrighted material. The service was allegedly being distributed to tens of thousands of customers before being shut down by officers.

Kieron Sharp, CEO of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), a trade organisation representing copyright owners, said: “This is a hugely significant step by Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary and one that has our full support. It sends a really clear message to those facilitating this illegal activity and additionally to those choosing to consume content in this way – users of illegal services are accountable for their actions and they will be pursued. This will be an alarming wake-up call for people who use illegal streams. No one wants the police knocking on their door.”

He added: “The running of illegal streaming services is a serious crime and by paying for these services consumers are giving their money directly to criminals. This is not a grey area. Piracy is illegal and you run the risk of prosecution and a criminal conviction.”

In June, a former police officer, Daniel Aimson, was jailed for selling illegal devices that bypassed paid-for TV content and cost legitimate service providers more than £2 million ($2.5 million), following a joint investigation by the Greater Manchester Police and FACT.

That same month, FACT revealed that its data showed that the number of illegal streaming links online had trebled during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

“Every pirated link that we detect denies the rights holder of revenue to which they are entitled⁠—crucial funds needed in order for film studios to remain in production of future releases,” a FACT statement said.

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More on this story

19 May 2020   A UK trade organisation representing copyright owners has claimed that the number of illegal streaming links online has trebled during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.
15 October 2013   A UK TV streaming service has been ordered to stop broadcasting certain channels online and through mobile phones after it was found guilty of copyright infringement.