UK Pirate IPTV Sellers Receive In-Person Warnings From Police & FACT *TorrentFreak
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Reasonable profits can be made from the sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions, but there is always a chance of attracting the wrong kind of attention. According to the Federation Against Copyright Theft, several hapless pirates were visited at their homes in the UK this week, where they received cease and desist notices. Unpleasant? Maybe. But much better than the alternatives.
Once upon a time, the vast majority of piracy and counterfeiting involved physical goods. Even motion pictures have not changed hands without first being recorded on analog video tape or, more recently, on optical media.
These days, everything is done online. A movie is just another file to be silently downloaded and the days of buying pirated satellite maps from the classifieds of specialist computer magazines are long gone. Armed with a web browser and a bit of patience, it is now possible for novices to have a pirate IPTV subscription up and running in no time. But for many, it’s even simpler than that.
In 2022, many people are exposed to these subscriptions through friends or the wonders of social media. Sellers are easily found on Facebook where they brag about their wares for all to see, either completely oblivious or completely indifferent to the risks.
The problem is that this type of offense is considered fraud, a criminal offence. The chances of getting caught are certainly low but, for the unlucky minority, a criminal conviction could be life changing. Fortunately, in most cases, rights holders and the police seem to recognize this as well.
The Rise of “Strike and Warn”
This week, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) announced a new wave of enforcement action in the UK against people suspected of providing illegal IPTV subscriptions.
FACT teamed up with officers from West Midlands and Warwickshire Police and instead of opening the gates at 5am they took a more considered approach to stopping any breaches.
Targeting homes in Alcester, Solihull and Birmingham, investigators and police served so-called ‘cease and desist’ notices requiring suspects to cease all unlawful activity with immediate effect, or face consequences more serious.
This can be an unpleasant experience for those served, but given the alternatives, i.e. criminal prosecution by the police or even private prosecution by FACT, a simple pledge not to continue breaking the law represents a simple get out of prison – free card.
Cease and desist notices are more common in fraud cases
Documents seen by TorrentFreak indicate that police forces in the UK accept cease and desist notices as little more than a tool in an administrative process. However, if issued properly, the fact that a notice was served can provide evidence in support of a criminal prosecution or even a subsequent civil action.
Some forces claim that their responses to alleged fraud offenses are based on common sense and where it is possible to innovate with partners (in this case, FACT), this may be the preferred approach to ending alleged offenses . However, other factors also come into play, with police balancing the seriousness of the alleged crime, the resources available and the prospect of securing a conviction.
The FACT approach would be a success
According to the Intellectual Property Office’s IP Crime and Enforcement Report 2020-21 (pdf)FACT operations largely target lower-level offenders who sell pirate-configured set-top boxes and IPTV subscriptions on social media.
In the year covered by the report, FACT claimed a 90% success rate; 84 “cease and desist” notices have been issued and 70 offenders have fully complied with their terms. At that time, investigations into 14 cases were continuing, with FACT warning that in some cases prosecution could follow.
The image below from this report shows the regions where advisories were issued in 2020-2021.
The individuals targeted this week are located in the region marked “West Midlands”, which is just below the clear “danger” zone of Cheshire and to its right, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
FACT is working with the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) to gather intelligence on the suspects and believes the warning process was appropriate for those targeted this week.
“This latest action targeted people promoting unauthorized access to premium TV content, which is affecting broadcasters and rights holders in the UK and around the world, causing financial harm to the industry. and the economy,” the FACT statement read.
“While all those visited were operating at a relatively low level, the aim was to prevent them from undertaking further criminal activity and to deter others from becoming involved.”
FACT says further actions of a similar nature are planned throughout 2022.