Streaming devices, such as set-top-boxes or sticks are perfectly legal when used to access content that has been legitimately paid for or that is legally available for free, but many are being modified or purchased with unauthorised apps and add-ons pre-installed that allow people to illegally watch copyrighted content.
From movies that have not been released yet in the UK, TV programmes that haven’t aired yet or that are only being shown on subscription channels, to pay-per-view offerings, and subscription sports channels. If other people pay for the content you are watching for free, then you are watching illegally.
It is not a grey area: if you load-up, advertise, market, or sell dodgy streaming devices, you are committing a crime. We want to raise awareness of the risks. We are not asking for personal information about those watching content using those types of devices, but we do want to make you aware that you are breaking the law if you stream content from illegal apps and add-ons. That said, please tell us about people who are advertising, selling, loading up or supplying dodgy devices - or are directing people to use them. Tell us what you know, not who you are. We won't judge, just listen. Once you put down the phone or click send, that is the end of our communication.
Funding organised crime
You may think you’re getting a bargain if you buy a box or stick that is fully-loaded with Kodi software and illegal apps or add-ons, or if you subscribe to a service that offers them through your laptop or mobile device. However, you could also be helping to fund organised crime and bringing it into your community.
Chief Constable Giles York, National Police lead for Intellectual Property says: “To the consumer Illegal Streaming Devices (ISDs) might appear to be a good thing, but with clear links to organised crime where does your money actually go? There have been a number of convictions now and work is currently ongoing to identify those organised groups in the UK making huge profits and avoiding tax by supplying poor quality and unsafe devices to consumers. Each individual that is willing to accept that ‘it’s OK to get access to services without paying’ undermines the creative industries of the UK and there could come a time when those losses mean catastrophic results to the companies concerned and individuals employed by those industries. Would you book a taxi ride and then expect not to pay?”
Are people being convicted for this crime?
People are getting big fines and even going to prison for selling illegally modified streaming devices. A recent case in Nottingham saw Terry O’Reilly sentenced to four years in prison after he was discovered to be selling devices to pubs and consumers which facilitated mass piracy, including the broadcasting of Premier League football on unauthorised foreign channels. He was convicted for Conspiracy to Defraud.
This is organised criminal activity
In March 2017 Gavin Gray, a 25-year-old man from Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud and copyright offences. He was running a card-sharing operation which he advertised on dedicated card-sharing websites and forums, supplying illegal access to premium channels to customers across Scotland. When police searched his home they found £44,500 hidden in a safe in his loft, and later seized another £80,000 from his bank account. Police Scotland described Gray as “the lynchpin in large-scale, organised illegal activity known in the industry as ‘card-sharing’ with clients across the UK and internationally.”
People are claiming benefits whilst making thousands
Paul Mahoney from Londonderry, Northern Ireland was sentenced to four years. He was found guilty of running an internet piracy scam from his bedroom, offering access to the latest films and television shows, many before general release. He made almost £300,000 through advertising revenue generated from illegal sites, while claiming more than £12,000 in state benefits during that time.
Suppliers have been fined
Liverpool based ‘Football for Pubs’ was ordered by the High Court to cease the sale of illegal devices and pay costs of £90,000. Pub Entertainment Systems in Royston, Hertfordshire was ordered by the High Court to cease the sale of the illegal devices and pay costs of £77,000.
In March 2017, a case in Hartlepool saw one man ordered to pay £250,000 and receive a ten-month suspended prison sentence for selling illegal set-top-boxes.
You may receive a letter or email offering a payment if you can get money to the sender. The scammer might claim to be somebody official like a lawyer or accountant and promise to give a portion of the money in return for help with the transfer but you'll never see the promised payment.
The lowdown on illegal streaming devices
Streaming illegal content also leaves you open to cybercriminals accessing your device and data. You can find out more about the risks here.
Are they safe?
Illegal streams are a safety and security risk. When subscribing to content you could be giving real criminals your personal information; risking identity theft, your bank account or your home network being hacked, and your online passwords being compromised. Also, illegal streaming devices have failed a number of both UK and EU safety checks and standards - safety testing has shown that most of the components that make up these boxes would not pass EU safety regulations, meaning they could put you/your family at risk.
How much money is being made?
There are millions of pounds being made, from local traders, to international Organised Crime Groups who manufacture the devices in overseas territories (such as China) with the intention of advertising and selling the devices in the UK and across the EU. Organised Criminal Gangs are willing to trade in any commodity that allows them to accumulate wealth with no concern for the end user or the impact it has on the economy, legitimate trade or communities. If they are dealing with illicit streaming devices they are likely to be dealing in other counterfeit products, some of which can pose a real risk to the consumer due to the untested inferior products they use. In short PROFIT before customer satisfaction and more importantly – SAFETY!
Crimestoppers has partnered with the Intellectual Property Office and other industry partners to help protect you and your family from the impact of illegal streaming. If you have information on who is selling or distributing these fully loaded devices, it’s easy and safe to contact us by phone on 0800 555 111 or online anonymously.
There’s no need to risk it. Find content safely and legally
The following links can help you identify how to access legal content and give you more support to keep you and your family safe. Get it right from a genuine site (for all types of online content), www.findanyfilm.com (specifically for film and TV) or Which Film Finder (an interactive tool that allows you to search your favourite show or film).
Find out more about how this crime compromises your personal security and puts your family at risk or read our FAQs.