A Military Career in Jeopardy For TV Piracy: Fair Punishment or a Step Too Far?

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After almost two decades of lawsuits and criminal cases against pirates of all kinds, no one should be surprised that supplying infringing content has the potential to end badly. Nevertheless, it's a risk that some people are still prepared to take, sometimes with life-altering consequences. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time? Perhaps, but there are real lives at stake here too, let's not forget that.

Pirate FireFor those who are old enough to remember, the 2000s were arguably the glory years of the file-sharing revolution.

Have a file, give one. Need a file, take one back. That was the very essence of file-sharing, a mostly self-governing system that allowed people to swap content without having to part with a penny. Certainly, in the majority of cases, regular people weren’t making any money from it even though they were probably saving some.

In broad terms, those days are now gone. While there are still some communities that exist on the old sharing ethos, today’s file-sharing landscape has transformed into a much broader piracy scene, often motivated by profit. Indeed, when it comes to the latest revelation, pirate IPTV packages, none if any of it would exist without being supported by an underlying business and in effect, a massive black market.

IPTV Crackdown Continues, With an Interesting Target

Rightsholders and their anti-piracy partners view this type of piracy as a particular threat. These are paying customers after all, ones that they would prefer to have line their collective pockets, not those of organized pirates. As a result, it appears that entertainment companies are prepared to go to extreme lengths to enforce their rights, with little or no mercy shown to their targets.

This week yet another case came to the fore via a release from the Federation Against Copyright Theft. Working with the likes of the Premier League and Sky, FACT is no stranger to tracking down pirates. However, the case in point has a different tone to it, one that shows that absolutely no one is immune to being hauled over the coals.

FACT says it was able to identify a man selling illegal services that provided access to premium sport, TV and films. He was reportedly offering the subscriptions through a Facebook group and via an app, for loading onto devices such as Firesticks. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary thus far but FACT also drew specific focus to his occupation.

Serving Member of the Military – So What?

The anti-piracy group reported that the man, from Oxfordshire, is a serving member of the armed forces as a Corporal in the Royal Air Force. FACT says that in order to carry out its investigation it teamed up with the RAF Special Investigation Branch and was able to confirm that the man had been working with “illegal content providers outside the military.”

FACT did not reveal whether the man pleaded guilty or not, but the company reports that he has now been sentenced.

“He was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and loss of service property and also received a reduction to his rank,” FACT revealed.

It is quite possible that the conspiracy to defraud part of the above statement came as no surprise. FACT prosecutions have long centered on fraud charges rather than copyright infringement because they carry more weight and are easier for a jury to understand. However, the direct effect on someone’s career isn’t something we’ve seen before. And FACT sound pretty pleased about it.

“Those running illegal streaming services are committing a serious crime and must be held accountable for their actions,” said FACT Chief Executive Kieron Sharp.

“This result shows the serious consequences faced by individuals who choose to break the law by supplying illegal content. This type of conviction will have a significant and long-lasting effect on this individual’s career and future opportunities.”

Dire Consequences

This almost celebratory warning over an entire career being undermined makes for uneasy reading. But the statement goes beyond that, by appearing to welcome the potential for a lifelong negative effect on opportunities too. It looks bad – and it is bad – but it is also completely true and shows how the game is progressing.

The message that FACT wants to send out is that piracy does not pay, can ruin your life, and the company is standing by to help make that happen. There are hundreds of potential targets when it comes to sellers of pirate IPTV in the UK but for reasons that FACT and its partners aren’t making clear, this person was considered a perfect candidate for the most punitive action, despite his role serving his country.

Of course, serving a country doesn’t make anyone immune from prosecution, but it’s perhaps telling that the man’s name, age, address, and extent of offending have all been suppressed. This information is usually made public but not in this case, potentially due to his position in society.

Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time?

Let’s not tread lightly here though. While getting into the IPTV selling game is relatively simple these days, there can be few people involved who aren’t aware of the risks. It has been widely publicized on dozens of occasions that sellers in the UK have been pursued for conspiracy to defraud so as a presumably intelligent member of the military, this cannot have gone unnoticed to the recently sentenced man.

With that in mind, we are presented with an uncomfortable truth. When people get involved in this type of activity, are aware of the risks, and yet do it anyway, should anyone have any sympathy? For whatever reasons, this was a person out to make a profit from piracy and to FACT – a company that measures its success by the severity and volume of these types of convictions – this is a red rag to a bull.

Deterrence – But At Any Cost?

What people need to know and what FACT is keen to express, is that no one is above the law. If they’ll hit this guy, they’ll hit anyone, the news seems to suggest. The big question is whether sending a strong deterrent message has its limits before those signals veer off into less palatable territory.

Indeed, it’s notable that the rightsholders behind this action appear to have taken the decision not to have their names associated with it in public, instead allowing FACT to take whatever type of publicity comes as a result. That being said, big names in sport and/or broadcasting are most certainly behind the action and could have more in store.

“We thank the RAF for their work on this and FACT will continue to monitor channels used to advertise, market, sell and distribute apps, devices and streams to take action against suppliers and operators. Subscribers to his services have been identified and further action is anticipated,” FACT concludes.

Let no one say they didn’t get the memo.


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